Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that causes inflammation and granulomas in various organs, especially the lungs and lymph nodes. Granulomas are small lumps of immune cells that form when the body tries to fight off an unknown substance. The cause of sarcoidosis is still unknown, but it may be related to genetic factors, environmental triggers, or infections.
Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, but it is more common in Black people and women. It usually occurs between the ages of 25 and 40. Some people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms or only mild ones, while others may experience severe or chronic problems. The symptoms depend on which organs are affected by the disease.
The most common symptoms of sarcoidosis are related to the lungs, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Sarcoidosis can also affect the skin, eyes, heart, joints, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system, and other organs. Some of the possible symptoms include:
- A rash of red or purple bumps on the legs or ankles
- Sores or discolored patches on the face or ears
- Blurred vision, eye pain, or sensitivity to light
- Irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or swelling in the legs
- Fatigue, fever, weight loss, or swollen lymph nodes
- Kidney stones or calcium deposits in the urine
- Nerve damage or seizures
Sarcoidosis is diagnosed by a combination of tests, such as blood tests, chest X-rays, lung function tests, biopsies, and imaging scans. The diagnosis can be challenging because sarcoidosis can mimic other conditions and affect different organs in different ways.
There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but most people do very well with no treatment or only modest treatment. In some cases, sarcoidosis goes away on its own within a few years. However, some people may have long-term or severe disease that requires treatment to prevent organ damage or complications.
The main treatment for sarcoidosis is corticosteroids, which are drugs that reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. Other medications that modify the immune system may also be used for some people. The type and duration of treatment depend on the severity and location of the disease.
“It is important to know that sarcoidosis can be treated,” says Dr. William Damsky, a dermatologist at Yale Medicine. “At Yale, we have world-class sarcoidosis experts in many different medical specialties including pulmonology, cardiology, rheumatology, dermatology, ophthalmology, and others. At Yale, our specialists will always work together as a team to develop the best individualized treatment plan for each patient’s sarcoidosis.”
Sarcoidosis is a mysterious disease that can affect anyone at any age. It can cause a wide range of symptoms and complications depending on which organs are involved. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with sarcoidosis can live normal and healthy lives.