Sarcoidosis is a disease that leads to inflammation in the lymph nodes and/or organs — most commonly the lungs, liver and skin.
In a person with sarcoidosis, tiny, abnormal clumps of tissue called granulomas develop. If a lot of granulomas form in an organ, they can affect how the organ works.
Symptoms vary from person to person, depending on which organs are affected. Many people with sarcoidosis have no or few symptoms, but some develop serious health problems, especially if the granulomas are in the heart or brain.
These are some of the most common symptoms of sarcoidosis:
- Wheezing, coughing or chest pain
- Rashes or small bumps on the skin
- Dry eyes or watering eyes
- An enlarged liver
Many people notice this specific set of signs and symptoms (known as Lofgren’s syndrome) when they first get sarcoidosis:
- 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)
- Night sweats
How can I get help for sarcoidosis?
If you experience any of the above symptoms — especially the combination of symptoms for Lofgren’s syndrome — talk to your doctor. He or she will do a physical exam and may order tests to determine whether you have sarcoidosis or another condition with similar symptoms.
Care for sarcoidosis at Rush
If you are diagnosed with sarcoidosis, you will be referred to a pulmonologist at Rush.
Often people with the disease have no symptoms and do not need treatment. Whether you need treatment depends on these factors:
- Which organ or organs are affected and whether they are working well. If your eyes, heart or brain are affected, you will need treatment even if you are not experiencing symptoms.
- Your specific signs and symptoms.
Because new symptoms can appear at any time and the disease may worsen, it’s important to be under the care of a pulmonologist even if you don’t currently have symptoms. The pulmonologist will do the following:
- Monitor your health
- Periodically test your organs to make sure they are working properly
- Provide treatment when necessary.
There is no cure for sarcoidosis. But treatment can help relieve symptoms, improve organ function and slow the progression of the disease.
If you do require treatment, your pulmonologist will discuss your options with you. Depending on your specific symptoms, you may also receive care from other specialists at Rush. Your personalized treatment plan may include one or more of the following:
- Prednisone, a type of steroid – to reduce inflammation
- Antimalarial medications – sometimes used to treat sarcoidosis affecting the skin or brain
- Medications that suppress the immune system – sometimes used to treat sarcoidosis affecting the lungs, eyes, skin or joints
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen – to reduce pain and fever
- Topical treatments – to relieve skin rashes
- Inhaled medicines – to open your airways if you are coughing and wheezing
Why choose Rush for sarcoidosis care
- Pulmonologists at Rush offer in-depth testing — including lung function tests — to determine whether your breathing problems and other symptoms are caused by sarcoidosis or another condition. Getting the right diagnosis will help you get the right treatment.