What is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can produce small clusters of cells called “granulomas” anywhere in or on the body, including internal organs and the skin. A multi-organ disease, sarcoidosis may affect a range of systems, including the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, lymph glands, lungs, skin, liver, spleen, eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys. In some cases inflamed granulomas may interfere with the functioning of an organ. The disease is not contagious.
Sarcoidosis impacts people in many different ways. Fortunately, most patients with sarcoidosis have no or minor complaints, and lead a relatively normal life. Approximately 70 percent of sarcoidosis patients do not have symptoms and do not need treatment. In approximately 30 percent of patients, the symptoms may appear chronic and/or worsen (although the condition is rarely fatal). It is these chronic, complex cases that Mount Sinai specializes in treating.
Sarcoidosis Signs and Symptoms
Sarcoidosis symptoms vary widely and may appear to varying degrees and for differing periods of time. Some patients have no symptoms; some have symptoms that are unpleasant but not disabling; some experience symptoms that disappear with or without treatment then return. If symptoms last for more than two years, the sarcoidosis is considered chronic.
Depending on the part of the body affected, sarcoidosis patients may experience symptoms that include the following:
- Fatigue / weakness
- Night sweats
- Low-grade fever
- Weight loss
- Sleeping difficulties
- A feeling that something just isn’t right
- Palpitations (racing heartbeat)
- Chest pain
- Unsteady gait
- Bell’s Palsy
- Cognitive difficulties
- Numbness in the extremities
- Kidney stones
- High calcium levels in the blood and / or urine
- Kidney inflammation by granulomas
- Decreased kidney function manifested by abnormal blood tests
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Rashes, sores, or reddish patches on the skin
- Swollen, painful, red bumps on arms or legs (called erythema nodosum)
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or floaters
- Swelling of upper eyelids (due to enlarged lacrimal glands)
- Enlarged nodes
- Swelling of salivary glands (or parotid glands) producing a “mumps-like” appearance
Sarcoidosis Causes and Risk Factors
Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, socioeconomic background, or geographic background, although it is most often found in people ranging from 20 to 40 years of age. The cause of sarcoidosis is not known, and it cannot be determined who is likely to develop the disease. Sarcoidosis can be found occurring in clusters within families, or as individual cases.
Although sarcoidosis is a rare disease, it is found worldwide. In the United States, it is more common and more severe in African-Americans than Caucasians (although at Mount Sinai this occurrence is about 50/50).