What is sarcoidosis?

Written by: Dr Amit Patel
Edited by: Emma McLeod

Sarcoidosis can affect multiple organs but most commonly the lungs.  If you have sarcoidosis, you might be experiencing a range of symptoms that depend on where the inflammation occurs. Dr Amit Patel is a leading expert in pulmonology and respiratory medicine and in this article, he provides you with what there is to know about this autoimmune condition, from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment.

A man is sitting on his couch and coughing into his hand.

What is sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is a condition involving the development of granulomas, which are clusters of cells involved in inflammation. These can occur in the body's organs, most commonly the lungs, but can indeed affect any organ. In many cases, symptoms are not severe and improve over time without treatment being needed. For some, however, symptoms may worsen rather than improve.


Symptoms of sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis symptoms will vary from person to person and will depend on which organs are involved. Those with acute sarcoidosis will experience symptoms that develop rapidly but then subside over time as the condition disappears.


Sarcoidosis can lead to significant fatigue, muscle aches and joint pains. When it affects the lungs, it can cause a persistent cough and shortness of breath. When sarcoidosis affects the skin, it can cause symptoms including  patches, red bumps and tenderness. Other symptoms include sore eyes, red eyes, palpitations and fainting or dizziness.


Causes of sarcoidosis

The cause of sarcoidosis is not yet known but is thought that environmental factors may present a risk factor for those who are genetically predisposed to the condition.


The direct cause of sarcoidosis is understood to be the immune system going into 'overdrive' and attacking organs and tissues in the body. This then causes inflammation which leads to granulomas developing. Like rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis is known as an autoimmune condition.


Sarcoidosis can affect people of all ages but tends to arise most commonly in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.


Diagnosis of sarcoidosis

There are different diagnostic options for sarcoidosis depending on where it is affecting. A biopsy is likely to be necessary for confirmation but is not always necessary. If sarcoidosis affects the lungs, a CT scan may be conducted. In some cases, an endoscopy can be ordered in order to take a biopsy. Blood tests will also be necessary.


Treatment of sarcoidosis

Medicines such as steroid tablets can be prescribed to reduce damage to organs or if the symptom burden is high. This is a complex decision with multiple factors to be accounted for. In some cases, other drugs that suppress some of the immune systems which are driving the disease may be prescribed.


It’s advisable for people with sarcoidosis to have their condition regularly monitored.


Dr Amit Patel is a specialist in the investigation and management of all respiratory conditions. Visit his profile to learn more and to get in touch.

By Dr Amit Patel
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Amit Patel is a leading London Consultant Respiratory physician specialising in the investigation and management of all respiratory diseases including acute and chronic cough, asthma, breathlessness of unknown cause, COPD, lung cancer, respiratory failure, sleep apnoea, sarcoidosis, interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis, and is the clinical lead for respiratory medicine at King's College Hospital, London.

He has a number of private clinics in London, alongside his NHS work at King's College Hospital and Guys and St Thomas's Hospital. During Dr Patel's higher specialist training he obtained an MD in the Division of Asthma, Allergy, and Lung Biology within King’s College London.

Dr Amit Patel holds a postgraduate teaching qualification and is actively involved in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and teaches all aspects of respiratory medicine. He has been involved in a number of research projects and his work has been published in a number of high impact factor international journals, and presented at major symposia in North America, Europe and the UK.

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