What Is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis (sar"koi-do'sis) involves
inflammation that produces tiny lumps of cells in various organs in your body.
The lumps are called granulomas (gran"u-lo'mahs) because they look like grains
of sugar or sand. They are very small and can be seen only with a microscope.
These tiny granulomas can grow and
clump together, making many large and small groups of lumps. If many granulomas
form in an organ, they can affect how the organ works. This can cause symptoms
Sarcoidosis can occur in almost any
part of your body, although it usually affects some organs more than others. It
usually starts in one of two places:
- Lymph nodes, especially the lymph nodes in your
Sarcoidosis also often affects your:
Less often, sarcoidosis affects your:
- Tear glands
- Salivary glands
- Bones and joints.
Rarely, sarcoidosis affects other
organs, including your:
- Thyroid gland
- Reproductive organs.
Sarcoidosis almost always occurs in
more than one organ at a time.
Sarcoidosis has an active and a
- In the active phase, the granulomas form and
grow. In this phase, symptoms can develop, and scar tissue can form in the
organs where the granulomas occur.
- In the nonactive phase, the inflammation goes
down, and the granulomas stay the same size or shrink. But the scars may remain
and cause symptoms.
The course of the disease varies
greatly among people.
- In many people, sarcoidosis is mild. The
inflammation that causes the granulomas may get better on its own. The
granulomas may stop growing or shrink. Symptoms may go away within a few years.
- In some people, the inflammation remains but
doesn't get worse. You may also have symptoms or flare-ups and need treatment
every now and then.
- In other people, sarcoidosis slowly gets worse
over the years and can cause permanent organ damage. Although treatment can
help, sarcoidosis may leave scar tissue in the lungs, skin, eyes, or other
organs. The scar tissue can affect how the organs work. Treatment usually does
not affect scar tissue.
Changes in sarcoidosis usually occur
slowly (e.g., over months). Sarcoidosis does not usually cause sudden illness.
However, some symptoms may occur suddenly. They include:
- Disturbed heart rhythms
- Arthritis in the ankles
- Eye symptoms.
In some serious cases in which vital
organs are affected, sarcoidosis can result in death.
Sarcoidosis is not a form of cancer.
There is no known way to prevent
Sarcoidosis was once thought to be an
uncommon condition. It's now known to affect tens of thousands of people
throughout the United States. Because many people who have sarcoidosis have no
symptoms, it's hard to know how many people have the condition.
Sarcoidosis was identified in the late
1860s. Since then, scientists have developed better tests to diagnose it and
made advances in treating it.