ZocdocAnswersWhat is sarcoidosis?

Question

What is sarcoidosis?

I didn't have any other symptoms of sarcoidosis, but I got a chest x-ray a few days ago that my doctor said shows the classic sarcoidosis pattern. He described the disease, but I couldn't understand. What does sarcoidosis do to me? What problems should I expect?

Answer

Sarcoidosis is a disease of inflammation, characterized on the microscopic level by the formation of granulomas (spherical collections of immune system cells). The exact cause of the disease is unknown; some researchers postulate an interaction between environmental factors or atypical infections. It is a process that often affects many different organ systems, and most commonly affects the lungs (in up to 90% of patients diagnosed with sarcoid). With lung involvement, the most common complaints of patients are cough and shortness of breath, but up to one-third of patients are thought to be completely without symptoms. Non-specific skin complaints and eye disease affect approximately one-third of patients with sarcoidosis. Less frequently, patients may have involvement of the liver, bone marrow, spleen, nervous system, and heart. Many patients diagnosed with sarcoidosis are thought to have acute self-limiting disease. Other patients may have a chronic course of disease, with symptoms depending on which organ systems are involved. Treatment is based on symptoms, and more extensive disease is typically treated with oral steroids. If steroids fail to control the symptoms, then other medications such as methotrexate and other immunosuppressant drugs may be tried. You should have a discussion with your physician about your diagnosis, the extent of your disease, and what treatment plan is best tailored to your symptoms.

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