What is Sarcoidosis?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 28, 2012

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Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that may affect one or more organs in the body.  Organs that are most commonly affected by sarcoidosis include lungs and lymph glands. Inflammation causes the formation of abnormal lumps or nodules (called granulomas) in one or more organs of the body. These granulomas can alter the normal structure and affect the functioning of the affected organ(s).

What causes sarcoidosis?

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. Most experts believe that some abnormal immune response causes the inflammation. The body’s defence system usually responds to a foreign substance "intruder.” In people with sarcoidosis, the immune system does not react as it should to a foreign substance. Usually, the cells of the body’s immune system come together to fight the foreign substances in an organ or tissue site, which leads to inflammation.  In sarcoidosis, however, the immune cells that come to fight end up clumping together into small lumps called granulomas. The exact cause that "triggers" the body’s abnormal response is not known yet.


Symptoms of sarcoidosis can vary greatly from mild to severe and depend on the organ/organs that are affected. The disease may start suddenly and disappear or the symptoms may start gradually i.e. can come and go for a lifetime. Some people may have no outward symptoms at all even though their organs are affected.

The common initial symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea).
  • Persistent cough (cough that won’t go away).
  • Reddish bumps or patches on the skin or under the skin.
  • Fever, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, malaise etc.
  • Increase in size of lymph glands in the chest and around the lungs (these cause cough and shortness of breath).


There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but the symptoms may improve in some people gradually without treatment. Aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms, control inflammation of the affected tissues and granuloma formation and prevent lung fibrosis and other irreversible organ damage. Treatment is usually recommended for people with bothersome symptoms. Treatment of sarcoidosis includes maintenance of good health practices and medications. Some good health practices recommended for sarcoidosis include healthy eating, regular exercises, quitting smoking and regular follow-up with the doctor. Corticosteroids are the first line of drugs used in the management of sarcoidosis. Prednisolone, an oral corticosteroid, is the most commonly used corticosteroid. Some other treatment options include methotrexate or azathioprine, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, cyclophosphamide or chlorambucil. These drugs are considered for patients, who cannot tolerate steroids, because of the side-effects, it is contraindicated or if there is no response.



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