- Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease in which the immune system overreacts, causing clusters of inflamed tissue called "granulomas" to form in different organs of the body.
- Sarcoidosis most commonly affects the lungs and lymph nodes, but it can also affect the eyes, skin, heart and nervous system.
- Sarcoidosis is a rare disease. The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research estimates that there are fewer than 200,000 cases per year in the United States.
- Lofgren’s syndrome is an acute, milder form of sarcoidosis that usually goes away within six months to two years after diagnosis.
- African-Americans are three times more likely to be diagnosed with sarcoidosis than Caucasians and tend to have more severe disease.
- In severe cases, sarcoidosis can be life-threatening if it progresses to heart or severe lung disease.
How Sarcoidosis Affects Your Body
While no one knows what causes sarcoidosis, it is associated with increased immune system activity. This causes clusters of immune cells called granulomas to infiltrate your organs and lymph nodes. Sarcoidosis most commonly affects your lungs, but it can affect any organ in your body. Sarcoidosis affects people differently, depending on which organs are affected by the disease as well as its severity.
The first stage of sarcoidosis is inflammation. The increased inflammation in your body may cause flu-like symptoms such as night sweats, joint pain and fatigue. The second stage of the disease occurs when granulomas, or masses of inflamed tissue, form in the body. These masses are your body’s attempt to isolate foreign particles that the immune system is having trouble fighting. These granulomas can lead to the third stage of pulmonary sarcoidosis, when scar tissue develops in your lungs, making it hard to breathe. Many people with sarcoidosis also have skin and eye damage. Occasionally those with severe sarcoidosis develop granulomas and inflammation in their hearts, which can trigger abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.
Who Is at Risk?
The cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, but it seems to have both a genetic and an environmental component. When someone whose genes make them more prone to developing sarcoidosis is exposed to a trigger such as an infection or environmental contaminant, their immune system can overreact and start the development of the disease. If you work in dusty or moldy environments, you may be at a higher risk of developing sarcoidosis.
Although anyone can develop sarcoidosis, people of African and Scandinavian descent are more at risk. Both men and women can be diagnosed with sarcoidosis, but it is more common in women. People between 20 to 40 years of age are more likely to develop sarcoidosis than others.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.
Page last updated: October 24, 2020