What is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can produce small clusters of cells, granulomas, anywhere in the body’s organs or on 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.
Sarcoidosis is not contagious. Sarcoidosis may affect people in different ways. Fortunately, most patients with sarcoidosis lead a relatively normal life and do not have major complaints. Approximately 70 percent of sarcoidosis patients do not have symptoms and do not need treatment.
In approximately the remaining 30 percent of patients, the symptoms may appear chronic or worsen, although the condition is rarely life threatening. Mount Sinai pulmonologists specialize in treating chronic complex cases.
Sarcoidosis symptoms vary widely and may appear to varying degrees and for differing periods. Some patients have no symptoms; some have symptoms that are unpleasant but not disabling; some experience symptoms that disappear with or without treatment and 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:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Night sweats
- Low-grade fever
- Weight loss
- Sleeping difficulties
- A feeling that something just is not right
- Palpitations or racing heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Unsteady gait
- Bell’s palsy
- Cognitive difficulties
- Numbness in the extremities
- Kidney stones
- High calcium levels in the blood or urine
- Kidney inflammation by granulomas
- Decreased kidney function manifested by abnormal blood tests
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Rashes, sores, or reddish patches on the skin
- Swollen, painful, red bumps on arms or legs (erythema nodosum)
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or floaters
- Swelling of upper eyelids due to enlarged lacrimal glands
- Enlarged nodes
- Swelling of salivary glands or parotid glands producing that may look like mumps
Causes and Risk Factors
Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, socioeconomic or geographic background, although most often it is diagnosed in 20 to 40 year olds. 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 as individual cases.
Although sarcoidosis is a rare disease, it is found worldwide. Throughout the United States, statistically, it is more common and more severe in African-Americans than Caucasians, although at Mount Sinai the occurrence is about 50/50.