Sarcoidosis | Mate pauku

Also called sarcoid or Besnier-Boeck disease

Sarcoidosis (mate pauku) is a rare disease that leads to inflammation in any part of the body, but most commonly in the lungs, skin or lymph nodes.

Key points

  1. Sarcoidosis is a rare condition that mainly affects people's lungs, although sometimes it can affect other parts of the body.
  2. Sarcoidosis starts as tiny, grain-like lumps called granulomas that cause the inflammation.
  3. There is no known cause of sarcoidosis.
  4. It can affect people of any age, but occurs mostly in people aged between 25 and 45 years.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes sarcoidosis, but it seems to run in families. One theory is that an infection triggers it in people whose genes put them at risk of getting it. In spite of years of research, no specific infection has been identified as the cause of sarcoidosis.

Most people have acute sarcoidosis, which only lasts a few years. But there's a rarer form known as chronic sarcoidosis that can need long-term treatment.

What are the symptoms of sarcoidosis?

The signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which organs are affected. Many people don't have any symptoms, others may have one or more of the following:

  • a persistent dry cough
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • tiredness
  • unintentional weight loss
  • painful red lumps (called erythema nodosum) on the front of their legs.

How is sarcoidosis diagnosed?

If you think you may have sarcoidosis, speak to your healthcare provider who can organise some tests for you. These may include a complete blood count, a chest X-ray and spirometry ( a test to see how well your lungs are working). You may need to see a hospital specialist for further tests, such as a CT scan or a biopsy (which means taking a small bit of your tissue so it can be tested in a laboratory).

How is sarcoidosis treated?

For most people, sarcoidosis is usually a mild condition that gets better within 1–3 years and doesn't need any treatment. Your healthcare provider will monitor you over this time. If you have more severe symptoms, you'll usually be treated with prednisone. Sometimes you'll also need medicines that suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants).

Living with and managing sarcoidosis

Before she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, Romaine had never heard of the disease. Her symptoms started with a dry cough, which became far worse about a year later. Unable to speak a sentence without coughing, Romaine began taking medicine to treat her sarcoidosis. Also, she began to focus on following a healthy lifestyle, including eating well and being physically active. By following her treatment plan and making lifestyle changes, Romaine is able to live a full, active life.

 (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, US, 2011)

Learn more

Sarcoidosis factsheet Better Health Channel, Australia
Sarcoidosis PatientInfo, UK

Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub Collaborative.
Credits: Written by Health Navigator. Latest update January 2015.. Last reviewed: 19 Jan 2015