Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes swelling in the cells in different organs of your body. It usually affects your lungs. It can also affect other organs, like your skin, eyes, lymph nodes and brain.

With sarcoidosis, some of your blood cells bunch together to form tiny lumps called granulomas. The granulomas can form in different parts of your body. If they build up in your lungs they can stop them from working properly.

Doctors don’t know for sure what causes sarcoidosis. They think that sarcoidosis may be caused by a combination of genetics (family history) and environmental factors (things around you).  Doctors do know that being near certain things may boost your risk of getting sarcoidosis:

  • Wood-burning stoves
  • Silica (a mineral)
  • Insecticides
  • Mould
  • Certain bacteria in your lungs

Anyone can get sarcoidosis. It’s more common in certain groups:

  • People between 20 – 40 years of age
  • Women
  • African-Americans and people with an African background
  • Northern Europeans and people with a Northern European background

People who work in certain jobs are more likely to get sarcoidosis:

  • Ship servicemen (in the navy)
  • Metal workers
  • Suppliers of building materials, hardware, and gardening materials
  • Teachers
  • Firefighters

Children can get sarcoidosis, but it’s rare.

Sarcoidosis can cause many different signs and symptoms. The symptoms are different in different people. Your symptoms depend on how long you have had sarcoidosis, and where the granulomas are, and how many there are.

Some people don’t have any symptoms from sarcoidosis. Their doctors find out that they have sarcoidosis when they are looking into other health problems.

Some symptoms of sarcoidosis are:

  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Losing weight
  • Skin rash
  • Tender purple or red lumps on your skin, usually on your legs
  • Muscle aches, weakness, joint pain
  • Eye pain or redness

Sarcoidosis affects the lungs in about 90% of patients. When sarcoidosis affects your lungs, it is often called pulmonary sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis of your lungs can give you these symptoms:

  • Wheezing (noisy breathing)
  • Short of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Chest pain (this is less common)

20-25% of people with sarcoidosis get pulmonary fibrosis, permanent scarring of the lungs. Pulmonary fibrosis makes your lung tissue thicker and stiffer, so it is harder to breathe. Learn more about pulmonary fibrosis. 

Some people will get pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the lungs.

Doctors provide a diagnosis by listening to you explain your symptoms, examining you, doing tests and ruling out other disease that cause similar symptoms.

Sarcoidosis is hard to diagnose for two reasons:

  1. Symptoms of sarcoidosis are similar to other diseases.
  2. There is not one definitive medical test for sarcoidosis. Doctors must give many tests before they can diagnosis sarcoidosis.

Tests that help diagnose sarcoidosis

Your doctor will order tests to understand your symptoms and to see which organs are affected. Some common tests are:

  • Spirometry – a simple breathing test that measures how much and how fast you can move air out of your lungs.
  • X-rays – to check if there are granulomas or other changes in your lungs.
  • CT scan – an imaging test that takes a picture of your lungs, brain, or other areas of your body to check for changes.
  • Electrocardiograph (ECG) and 24 hour tape (Holter moniter) – tests that record the electrical activity of your heart to see if it is working properly.
  • Ultrasound scan of different areas of your body such as liver or spleen.
  • Blood tests – to check if your liver and kidneys are working properly, and to see if there are changes in your blood.

Doctors don’t know for sure what causes sarcoidosis. They think that sarcoidosis may be caused by a combination of genetics (family history) and environmental factors (things around you). Doctors do know that being near certain things may boost your risk of getting sarcoidosis: Wood-burning stoves Silica (a mineral) Insecticides Mould Certain bacteria in your lungs

Hey!

Get offers, invitations and information about lung health delivered to your inbox. 

Sign up for the free e-newsletter and get only the information you want.