Sarcoidosis is a rare disease caused by inflammation. It usually occurs in the lungs and lymph nodes, but it can occur in almost any organ.
Sarcoidosis in the lungs is called pulmonary sarcoidosis. It causes small lumps of inflammatory cells in the lungs. These lumps are called granulomas and can affect how the lungs work. The granulomas generally heal and disappear on their own. But, if they don’t heal, the lung tissue can remain inflamed and become scarred and stiff. This is called pulmonary fibrosis. It changes the structure of the lungs and can affect your breathing. Bronchiectasis can also occur. This is when pockets form in the air tubes of the lung and become infected. But, these problems are not common.
The cause of pulmonary sarcoidosis is unknown. Experts think that bacteria, viruses, or chemicals might trigger the disease. It may also be genetic. This means a person is more likely to develop sarcoidosis if someone his or her close family has it. This is an active area of research.
Most people with sarcoidosis do not have symptoms and probably don't know they have the disease. It can affect many organs, causing a variety of symptoms. Pulmonary sarcoidosis can reduce the amount of air the lungs can hold and cause lung stiffness.
The following are the most common symptoms of pulmonary sarcoidosis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Sarcoidosis can also cause symptoms not directly related to the lungs, such as:
The symptoms of pulmonary sarcoidosis may look like other conditions or medical problems. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, tests used may include:
Sarcoidosis is usually diagnosed when other lung disorders are ruled out.
Treatment is generally done to control symptoms and improve the function of organs affected by the disease. Steroid medicine, such as prednisone, may help reduce inflammation. It can be taken by mouth or inhaled. Other medicines, such as methotrexate, may be used in severe cases or if steroids don’t work.
In many cases, no treatment is needed for pulmonary sarcoidosis. Different treatments work better for different people. Sometimes more than one treatment is used. Most medicines used to treat sarcoidosis suppress the immune system.
You may also join a rehab program that includes education, exercise, and support. In severe cases, which are not common, oxygen therapy and even lung transplant may be needed.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: