Sarcoidosis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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Who gets sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis was once considered a rare disease. We now know that it is a common chronic illness that appears all over the world. Indeed, it is the most common of the scarring lung disorders and occurs often enough in the United States for Congress to have declared a national Sarcoidosis Awareness Day in 1990.

Anyone can get sarcoidosis. It occurs in all races and in both sexes. Nevertheless, the risk is greater if you are a young black adult, especially a black woman, or of Scandinavian, German, Irish, or Puerto Rican origin. No one knows why.

Because sarcoidosis can escape diagnosis or be mistaken for several other diseases, we can only guess at how many people are affected. The best estimate today is that about five in 100,000 white people in the United States have sarcoidosis. Among black people, it occurs more frequently, in probably 40 out of 100,000 people. Overall, there appear to be 20 cases per 100,000 in cities on the East Coast and somewhat fewer in rural locations. Some scientists, however, believe that these figures greatly underestimate the percentage of the U.S. population with sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis mainly affects people between 20-40 years of age. White women are just as likely as white men to get sarcoidosis, but the black female gets sarcoidosis two times as often as the black male. No one knows what causes sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis also appears to be more common and more severe in certain geographic areas. It has long been recognized as a common disease in Scandinavian countries, where it is estimated to affect 64 out of 100,000 people. But it was not until the mid '40s, when a large number of cases were identified during mass chest X-ray screening for the Armed Forces, that its high prevalence was recognized in North America.

What do we know about sarcoidosis? Is sarcoidosis contagious or hereditary?

Much about sarcoidosis remains unknown. Nevertheless, if you have the disease, you can be reassured about several things. Sarcoidosis is usually not crippling. It often goes away by itself, with most cases healing in 24-36 months. Even when sarcoidosis lasts longer, most patients can go about their lives as usual. Sarcoidosis is not a cancer. It is not contagious, and your friends and family will not catch it from you. Although it can occur in families, there is no evidence that sarcoidosis is passed from parents to children.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2016

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