Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects the body’s organs, usually the lungs and lymph nodes. Many people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms or very mild ones, and recover over a few years. Some people find the disease remains, and it can cause serious problems.
What is sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a disease in which inflamed immune cells cluster together to form tiny lumps, in different parts of your body. These are known as sarcoid granulomas. They usually occur in the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. They are not cancerous.
The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, though some doctors think it is due to a problem with the immune system. It is also possible that it runs in families.
Some people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms, and others have mild through to severe ones.
If you do have symptoms, you might:
- feel tired
- have a temperature
- have swollen lymph nodes
- lose weight.
If many granulomas form in an organ, they can affect how that organ works. Sarcoidosis usually affects the lungs or the lymph nodes next to the lungs, but it can also affect other organs. It can cause problems with the:
- lungs – cough, chest pain or feeling short of breath
- skin – tender reddish bumps, rash or sores
- eyes – blurred vision, pain, severe redness or sensitivity to light
- heart – abnormal heartbeat
- brain – headaches or facial paralysis
- kidney – increased thirst or formation of kidney stones
- joints – swelling and pain (arthritis).
Sarcoidosis is difficult to diagnose and might be picked up only if you’re having medical tests for another reason (for example, a chest X-ray for a suspected lung infection).
If sarcoidosis is suspected, your doctor is likely to:
You might be asked to have a biopsy, in which a piece of tissue is removed by a needle and syringe. Your doctor might also ask you to have other medical tests such as an eye examination, an electrocardiogram (ECG), tests of your lung function or CT scans.
If you suspect you have sarcoidosis, see you doctor.
Many people who have sarcoidosis get better within a couple of years, and don’t need any treatment at all beyond regular check-ups.
If the condition is more serious, there are treatments that can help, including steroids such as prednisolone or cortisone. The exact treatment will depend on the organ affected, however there is no cure.
Anybody who has sarcoidosis and smokes should quit.
For support, visit Lung Foundation Australia or contact them on 1800 654 301.
Last reviewed: April 2017