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Sarcoidosis Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

Sarcoidosis can be tricky to diagnose. It's often confused with other diseases when you first see your doctor. A chest X-ray taken for other symptoms may lead your physician to send you for further testing. People with abnormal chest X-rays should be referred to a pulmonary specialist for evaluation.

What Are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?

Many people with sarcoidosis think they have the flu or a respiratory infection before they're diagnosed. Sarcoidosis can affect many different organs, but it most commonly affects your lungs.

Common symptoms of sarcoidosis include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing or abnormal breathing
  • Feeling congested

Sarcoidosis also can cause the following:

  • Skin rashes or raised bumps on the skin
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Eye irritation, dryness of the eyes and sometimes blurry vision
  • Fast heart rate or lightheadedness
  • Kidney stones
  • Increased levels of calcium in the bloodstream
  • Abnormal liver function

What Causes Sarcoidosis?

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. Some research suggests that an infection or exposure to something in the environment can trigger the immune system to overreact? While no specific gene mutation has been shown to cause sarcoidosis, it sometimes runs in families, and there may be a genetic tendency to develop sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis isn't contagious, so you can't catch it from someone else like you could a cold or flu.

What Are the Risk Factors?

  • People of African and Scandinavian descent are slightly more likely to develop sarcoidosis than Caucasians.
  • Women are more likely to develop the disease than men.
  • Some exposures to dusty or moldy environments have increased risk of developing sarcoidosis.
  • People between 20 to 40 years of age are more likely to develop sarcoidosis than others.

When to See Your Doctor

Most people who have sarcoidosis have no signs or symptoms of the disease. In these cases, it is diagnosed when a chest X-ray is done for another reason, and it is found to be abnormal.

However, you should contact your doctor if you think you have the flu or are experiencing any of the symptoms above.

Medical treatment can be used to control symptoms, prevent complications and improve outcomes in patients with persistent sarcoidosis. If you have sarcoidosis, your healthcare provider will carefully monitor you to see if your sarcoidosis is getting better or worse and will adapt your treatment depending on how your body is doing.

Sarcoidosis is often treated with the help of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Because the disease can affect so many organ systems, you may work with healthcare providers who specialize in the treatment of the lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, liver, eyes and skin. At specialized medical centers, these healthcare providers work as a team to develop a comprehensive treatment plans to control your symptoms and protect your overall health.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

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