Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammation of the body tissues. This leads to small lumps called granulomas. The disease can affect any organ in the body. But it often starts in the lungs and lymph nodes.
It is not known what causes sarcoidosis. It results from a problem with the body’s immune system. The main job of the immune system is to help the body fight infection. People of any age, race, or gender can have it. But it happens most often in people between the ages of 20 and 40. It is also more common in women than in men and in people exposed to dusty or moldy conditions.
When you breathe in, you inhale air that is full of oxygen. The oxygen travels from the lungs to the blood. Then it is carried to the rest of the body. In some cases of pulmonary sarcoidosis, the lungs become scarred. This is called pulmonary fibrosis. This scarring can make it hard to take a full breath. The damage can also make it hard for oxygen to pass from the lungs into the blood.
Most people have no symptoms at all. If symptoms do occur, they can include dry cough, tightness in the chest, and tiredness. Wheezing, shortness of breath, skin rashes, joint pain, kidney stones, vision problems, and loss of appetite can also occur. In some cases, pulmonary sarcoidosis stops getting worse. It may even go away. In other cases, the disease is long-lasting (chronic).
Many people don’t need treatment. The disease may not cause symptoms. And it may go away on its own. But treatment can be done to help relieve symptoms. It can reduce inflammation and help prevent damage. Medicines are used to treat the disease. More than one may be used. They may be taken in pill form or by injection. Some common ones are listed below.
Prednisone. This is an anti-inflammatory steroid (corticosteroid). It helps prevent or reduce inflammation that can harm lungs.
Methotrexate. This medicine is commonly the first one used so that you can cut back on the dose of prednisone. This helps lower the long-term side effects of the steroid.
Azathioprine. This medicine suppresses the immune system. It may be used alone or with prednisone. It helps reduce lung inflammation.
Cyclophosphamide. This is another type of medicine that suppresses the immune system. It may be used with prednisone. You may be given it as a single dose if you have problems with prednisone.
Other medicines that may be used include anti-TNF medicines such as inflizimab and etanercept. Antimalaria medicines such as hydroxychloroquine may help when skin, joints or brain are affected.
Note: These medicines can have serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider about them. Don't stop taking a medicine unless your provider says it’s OK. And tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about all medicines you use. This includes over-the-counter medicines. It also includes herbs or supplements.