Sarcoidosis (pronounced sar-koy-DOH-sis) is a rare disease that leads to inflammation in any part of the body, but most commonly in the lungs, skin or lymph nodes.
- Sarcoidosis starts as tiny, grain-like lumps called granulomas that cause the inflammation.
- There is no known cause of sarcoidosis.
- It can affect people of any age, but occurs mostly in people aged between 20 to 50 years.
- It is most common in people of African American and Northern European origin.
There are two forms of sarcoidosis: acute (the most common) and chronic.
In acute sarcoidosis, symptoms last for a few years, then clear and never return. With chronic sarcoidosis, symptoms do not go away. Granulomas are widespread in one or more organs and can prevent the organ from working properly.
The impact of chronic sarcoidosis is higher than the acute form and a range of treatments may be needed.
The signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which organs are affected. Many people do not have any symptoms, others may have one or more of the following:
- a persistent dry cough
- shortness of breath
- weight loss
- night sweats
- skin lesions such as tender, red bumps.
Tests for sarcoidosis include:
- chest x-ray (most common test for diagnosis)
- lung function tests
- an eye examination
- CT scan to look for enlarged lymph nodes
- bronchoscopy (a procedure to view your lungs and airways)
- tissue biopsy to look for granulomas.
Not everyone who has sarcoidosis needs treatment. Whether you need treatment and what type of treatment you need depend on:
- your signs and symptoms
- which organs are affected
- how severely these organs are affected.
The goals of treatment include:
- relieving symptoms
- improving organ function
- controlling inflammation
- reducing the size of granulomas (inflamed lumps)
- preventing pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring) if your lungs are affected.
Monitoring is all that is needed. Your doctor will watch you closely to see whether the disease goes away on its own.
Moderate to serious disease
In these cases, medication may be needed. The main course of treatment is with prednisone, a type of steroid. This reduces the inflammation caused by the granulomas. Other treatments sometimes include methotrexate with or without prednisone.
If these are not effective there are other medications that can be prescribed.