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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What are some things we don't know about sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is currently thought to be associated with an abnormal immune response. It is not known whether the trigger that initiates the immune disturbance is a foreign substance, chemical, drug, virus, or some other substance.

In general, sarcoidosis appears briefly and heals naturally in 60%-70% of the cases, often without the patient knowing or doing anything about it. From 20%-30% of sarcoidosis patients are left with some permanent lung damage. In 10%-15% of the patients, sarcoidosis can become chronic.

When either the granulomas or fibrosis seriously affect the function of a vital organ -- the lungs, heart, nervous system, liver, or kidneys, for example -- sarcoidosis can be fatal. This occurs 5%-10% of the time. Some people are more at risk than others. No one knows why.

No one can predict how sarcoidosis will progress in an individual patient. The patient's symptoms, race, and the doctor's findings can give some clues. For example, a sudden onset of general symptoms, such as weight loss or feeling generally ill, are usually taken to mean that the course of sarcoidosis will be relatively short and mild. Dyspnea and possibly skin sarcoidosis often indicate that the sarcoidosis will be more chronic and severe.

White patients are more likely to develop the milder form of the disease. Black people tend to develop the more chronic and severe form.

Sarcoidosis rarely develops before the age of 10 or after the age of 60. However, the illness -- with or without symptoms -- has been reported in younger as well as in older people. When symptoms do appear in these age groups, the symptoms are those that are more general in nature, for example, tiredness, sluggishness, coughing, and a general feeling of ill health.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2016

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