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Sarcoidosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

What Are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?

The symptoms of sarcoidosis vary from person to person and depend greatly on what area of the body is being affected. In some people, symptoms will appear suddenly and go away quickly. Others may not experience any symptoms for years, even though granulomas are forming in their organs. Some people experience severe disease in one or multiple organs. 

General symptoms of sarcoidosis include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • A feeling of discomfort or illness
  • Pain and swelling in the joints 
  • Weight loss 
  • Depression 

People whose sarcoidosis affects the lung will usually, but not always, also have some respiratory symptoms, such as:

Sarcoidosis also commonly affects the skin and eyes. Symptoms can include skin rashes or raised bumps on the skin, joint pain or stiffness, eye irritation or dryness of the eyes and blurry vision.

How Is Sarcoidosis Diagnosed?

If you have sarcoidosis, you may have symptoms for several months to years before you're diagnosed. In many cases, it is a hard disease to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of other, more common diseases.

Your doctor will begin by performing a physical exam and taking down your medical history, your job history, medications you have been or are currently taking and the possibility of environmental exposure to elements that can cause sarcoidosis.

Your doctor will do several different types of tests to rule out other diseases as the source of your symptoms, and to determine which of your body systems are being affected. They will also check for granulomas to confirm a diagnosis of sarcoidosis.

Some of the tests and procedures you may be given include breathing tests to find out how much lung function you have and also test how well your body has responded to treatment after you've started taking medication. Your doctor may also do blood and urine tests to help assess your overall health, including your kidney and liver function. If your symptoms suggest sarcoidosis of the lungs, your doctor may run a chest CT scan to find out if your lung tissue and lymph nodes in your chest are normal. A CT scan will also alert your doctor to any granulomas that have developed. You may also be given an eye exam and/or an echocardiogram (EKG) of the heart to check for damage to other organs.

If your imaging test shows enlarged lymph nodes or spots on your lungs, you may be sent to a lung specialist or surgeon for a biopsy (a sample of your lung tissue). This sample can help doctors understand what's causing your symptoms and abnormal imaging results and rule out other diseases so that you can receive proper treatment.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 6, 2020

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