Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis symptoms like chest pain and rash can come and go — and untreated, can cause lasting damage. Get an accurate diagnosis and expert treatment at Rush.
Sarcoidosis symptoms like chest pain and rash can come and go — and untreated, can cause lasting damage. Get an accurate diagnosis and expert treatment at Rush.
Sarcoidosis symptoms like chest pain and rash can come and go — and untreated, can cause lasting damage. Get an accurate diagnosis and expert treatment at Rush.

Sarcoidosis is a disease of the immune system that causes small clumps of inflammatory cells, or granulomas, to form in the body. When too many granulomas form in an organ, they can affect its function.

Sarcoidosis is most common in the lungs (pulmonary sarcoidosis) where it can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, but it can affect any organ, including the lymph nodes, heart, liver, lungs, skin and gut. It can also affect bones and muscles.

What are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis symptoms depend on which organs are affected, so symptoms vary widely from person to person.

If you have sarcoidosis, you could have few or no symptoms, or you could develop serious health problems, especially if you have granulomas in your heart or brain.

The most common symptoms of sarcoidosis include the following:

  • Wheezing, coughing or chest pain
  • Rashes or small bumps on the skin
  • Dry eyes or watering eyes
  • An enlarged liver

Many people notice the following specific signs and symptoms (known as Lofgren’s syndrome) when they first get sarcoidosis:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (especially in the neck and chest)
  • Arthritis (usually in the ankles)
  • Erythema nodosum, a rash of red or reddish-purple bumps on your ankles and shins that may be warm and tender to the touch

Other, less common symptoms include the following:

  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Bone pain or swelling, or joint stiffness (especially in the hands or feet)
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

How Can I Get Help at Rush for Sarcoidosis?

If you have any of the above symptoms — especially the ones associated with Lofgren's syndrome — talk to your primary care doctor right away. Diagnosis starts with a physical exam; you might also need tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, bronchoscopy or a lung function test.

If you're diagnosed with sarcoidosis, you'll be referred to a Rush pulmonologist. Your treatment plan will depend on whether you have symptoms and which organs are affected.

Your pulmonologist will monitor your overall health, test your organ function regularly and adjust your treatment based on how you're doing.

Treatment for Sarcoidosis at Rush

There's no cure for sarcoidosis, but treatment can help relieve your symptoms, improve organ function, prevent complications and slow the progression of the disease.

Depending on your symptoms, your treatment might include steroids, immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, as well as topical treatments for skin rashes or an inhaler to open your airway if you're wheezing or coughing.

If your sarcoidosis affects other organs besides your lungs, your pulmonologist will team up with other Rush specialists to make sure you get the whole spectrum of treatment you need.

Rush Excellence in Sarcoidosis Care

  • Nationally ranked care: U.S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for pulmonary care and lung surgery.
  • Fast, accurate diagnosis: Rush pulmonologists use state-of-the-art testing to pinpoint whether your symptoms are being caused by sarcoidosis or another condition. Getting the right diagnosis will help you get the right treatment.
  • A team approach: Rush pulmonologists team up with expert rheumatologists, dermatologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists and neurologists to monitor and treat every facet of your sarcoidosis. Whether you have no symptoms or several, our team makes sure you get exactly the care you need.
  • Access to next-generation treatment: Because Rush is an academic medical system, we offer you access to the latest treatments, technology and clinical trials. For example, our researchers are studying the effects of sarcoidosis on the brain and the use of PET/CT scans to identify sarcoidosis that affects the liver.