What Is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can produce small clusters of cells called "granulomas" anywhere in or on the body, including internal organs and the skin. A multi-organ disease, sarcoidosis may affect a range of systems, including the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, lymph glands, lungs, skin, liver, spleen, eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys. In some cases inflamed granulomas may interfere with the functioning of an organ. The disease is not contagious.

Sarcoidosis impacts people in many different ways. Fortunately, most patients with sarcoidosis have no or minor complaints, and lead a relatively normal life. Approximately 75 percent of sarcoidosis patients do not have symptoms and do not need treatment. In approximately 25 percent of patients, the symptoms may appear chronic and/or worsen (although the condition is rarely fatal). It is these chronic, complex cases that Mount Sinai specializes in treating.

Sarcoidosis Signs and Symptoms

Sarcoidosis symptoms vary widely and may appear to varying degrees and for differing periods of time. Some patients have no symptoms; some have symptoms that are unpleasant but not disabling; some experience symptoms that disappear with or without treatment then return. If symptoms last for more than two years, the sarcoidosis is considered chronic.

Depending on the part of the body affected, sarcoidosis patients may experience symptoms that include the following:

General symptoms

  • Fatigue / weakness
  • Night sweats
  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • A feeling that something just isn’t right

Cardiac

  • Palpitations (racing heartbeat)
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain

Neurological

  • Unsteady gait
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Numbness in the extremities

Kidney

  • Kidney stones
  • High calcium levels in the blood and / or urine
  • Kidney inflammation by granulomas
  • Decreased kidney function manifested by abnormal blood tests

Lungs

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Wheezing

Skin

  • Rashes, sores, or reddish patches on the skin
  • Swollen, painful, red bumps on arms or legs (called erythema nodosum)

Joints

  • Aches
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Eyes

  • Dryness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision or floaters
  • Pain
  • Swelling of upper eyelids (due to enlarged lacrimal glands)

Lymph Glands

  • Enlarged nodes
  • Swelling of salivary glands (or parotid glands) producing a "mumps-like" appearance  

Sarcoidosis Causes and Risk Factors

Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, socioeconomic background, or geographic background, although it is most often found in people ranging from 20 to 40 years of age. The cause of sarcoidosis is not known, and it cannot be determined who is likely to develop the disease. Sarcoidosis can be found occurring in clusters within families or work environments, or as individual cases.

Once considered rare, sarcoidosis is now found worldwide. In the United States, it is more common in African-Americans than Caucasians (although at Mount Sinai this occurrence is about 50/50).


Contact Us

Sarcoidosis Support Group and Hotline
Email: Pearl.Johnson@mssm.edu
Tel: 212-241-8733

Private Practice Sarcoidosis Specialists
Adam S. Morgenthau, MD
Maria L. Padilla, MD 
Tel: 212-241-5656

One Gustave L. Levy Place
Box 1232
New York, NY 10029