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What is Sarcoidosis?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sarcoidosis may also be referred to as sarcoid or Besnier-Boeck Disease. It is an autoimmune condition characterized by the formation of non-cancerous nodes, called granulomas, that can develop in various organs. In about 90% of patients with this condition, granulomas form in the lungs and in the various lymph nodes of the body.

About 40 in 100,000 people will develop sarcoidosis, usually before they turn 50. Though the disease is seen in all groups, it appears most commonly among people of Swedish, Danish, and African descent. Medical researchers believe that people who have a family history of the condition are more at risk for developing it.

Despite defining a potential genetic connection, the precise mechanisms that cause the granulomas to develop are not completely known. Medical researchers believe that many people with this condition have an inappropriate immune response to one or more of the following agents: viruses, bacteria, chemicals, or fungi. The body’s lymphocytes become overactive, attacking these agents and releasing chemicals, which produce granulomas.

The symptoms of sarcoidosis are numerous. People may first feel tired, run fevers, and lose weight or have night sweats. If granulomas are in the lungs, a noted cough may be present, and shortness of breath after brief periods of activity is quite common. The lymph nodes, particularly those in the groin, under the chin, and under the arms, may be enlarged and be painful. About 25% of people experience pain in the joints and muscles, and about 25% also experience patches of raised and discolored skin.

Less common symptoms include itching, burning, or dry eyes. Some people may also be afflicted with sinus problems like a runny nose, a hoarse voice, or chronic sinus infections. In rare cases, granulomas may develop in the heart and affect the circulatory system.

Since sarcoidosis tends to mimic other illnesses, it may not be diagnosed unless a chest X-ray is taken. This test is common, since patients often suffer from a shortness of breath. A biopsy of swollen lymph nodes, and blood tests can also help diagnose the problem.

Patients with this condition should avoid exposure to sunlight and foods rich in vitamin D since these can cause the calcium-filled granulomas to form more readily. Sarcoidosis is usually treated with a variety of medications, including prednisone, which helps reduce inflammation. Patients also may take medications that reduce immune response, like methotrexate and cyclophosphamide. They block the immune response but also make people more susceptible to illnesses and infection. Medications may also be given to treat organs affected by granulomas, so those with granulomas in their hearts might receive some drugs that will improve circulatory function, for example.

Sarcoidosis patients are closely followed by healthcare professionals and their response to treatment is carefully recorded. Treatment may be required by a number of specialists, depending upon the various organs affected. For example, a pulmonologist most frequently evaluates patients who have granulomas in their lungs, and a cardiologist might follow a patient with heart problems.

With treatment, many patients live very normal lives, and the granulomas may disappear after a course of treatment. People who receive treated have a 95% survival rate and generally are not limited in what activities they can perform or disabled by the condition.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon997420 — On Jan 05, 2017

I have both asthma and sarcoidosis. They both complicate each other and I suffer badly for it. There are limited options available, my lungs are degraded, I'm chronically fatigued and sleep disrupted. There is no hope of a lung transplant as the sarcoidosis will attack the replacement lungs too. I've had it since 2008.

By anon990101 — On Apr 06, 2015

I have had Sarcoidosis for 15 years and I feel more tired. every day. I don't want to have sex or feel like anything anymore.

By anon311639 — On Jan 03, 2013

My daddy has sarcoidosis. He's been told there's nothing more the doctors can do for him. Can someone tell me what he can do to help himself?

By amypollick — On Aug 03, 2011

@anon202935: I am so sorry to hear about your husband's illness. I can't offer any treatment options, unfortunately, but I can certainly pray for him, and for you, and I certainly will. God bless you both.

By anon202935 — On Aug 03, 2011

My husband has had sarcoidosis since 2008 and since it has been discovered he has had no relief. He is constantly being told by all his doctors that all he has to do is lose weight, but even when he has lost weight the sarcoidosis does not go away. Every day of his life, he is coughing and vomiting and is very fatigued, has a lot of pain in his joints and muscles and can't breathe well and so on. The pain and suffering are endless and he just wants some relief.

He's been on prednisone and other medications, as well. They help for a while but then he gets sick with other ailments and needs to stop taking them. He takes nasal sprays, asthma pumps, uses a sleep apnea machine, nasal rinses and prednisone when necessary, because you can't stay on it too long you gain weight and get pre-diabetes from that. You name it, he's done it and has it.

He is only 42 years old and I am 37. We want to have children but have been unsuccessful due to his health condition. Is there anyone out there can offer some help? My husband is really depressed lately and feels that he will die soon. He is so sick of being sick.

I just wish that posting this can make people realize that sarcoidosis is a very serious illness and wish that someone can come up with a cure. As of now my husband's life is a mess. Poor guy, he should be up and running and enjoying his life at this age and here he is suffering miserably and not even the doctors and medicines help him.

I love him so and hope there's some cure out there. If anyone knows anything or has a cure, please help. My husband and many others are truly suffering from this disease and it is very sad watching the person you love cough and vomit every day throughout the day and not be able to do anything about it. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully, someone will answer my prayers. Sincerely, A sad wife who loves her husband dearly.

By anon163440 — On Mar 27, 2011

My husband has had this sarcoidosis for many years. He always gets short of breath and coughs first thing in the morning. he coughs so much until sometimes he throws up, but i believe in god for his healing.

By highpur — On Sep 05, 2010

i have sarcroidosis and have had my spleen removed. i am constantly tired and get sick quite a lot. i was referred to a physician and discharged. still none the wiser and to what this disease can do to my body.

I am not the same person i was and feel that there is not enough information out there so i am also in the dark as to what this disease can do.

By debralee — On Mar 03, 2009

at first they thought my husband had lymphoma after a biospy they now said he has Sarcoidosis. he has enlarged lymphnodes, spleen and liver problems. he had to have a blood platelet transfusion before his biopsy. he just found out today from the biopsy results...he is being referred to another doctor for Sarcoidosis...can this be treated and cured or does it just go in remission? also is this a disability?

By travbake — On Jan 29, 2009

i have sarcodosis and fibrosis of the lung. will i die soon or can i live longer with treatment? and can i get disability for this?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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