Sarcoidosis (sar-koi-do-sis) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect any organ in the body, but primarily involves the lungs. The reason people develop sarcoidosis is unknown, but it is thought to occur as a result of an "overactive" immune system. Sarcoidosis is most often identified on chest x-ray or CT scan being performed for other reasons (such as pneumonia/bronchitis or as part of a physical examination). The most common symptoms of sarcoidosis are dry cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Often, an x-ray will reveal enlarged lymph nodes in the chest. Occasionally, there will also be changes that look like pneumonia in the lungs that do not clear up after a course of antibiotics.
In order to confirm a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, a biopsy is necessary. The biopsy can be from any part of the body that is affected, such as skin, lung, or lymph nodes. Even when the lungs do not appear to be involved with sarcoidosis, a biopsy of the lung can confirm the diagnosis in the majority of patients. Your physician may request you undergo a bronchoscopy in order to biopsy your lung.
Sometimes, it is necessary to have a surgical biopsy of a lymph node in the chest. This type of biopsy (called mediastinoscopy) is performed by a thoracic surgeon under general anesthesia, but does not require hospitalization.
For the majority of patients, sarcoidosis is a mild disease that often does not require therapy. For those patients who do require treatment, steroids are the most commonly used, although other immune-suppressants (all in pill form) may also be used. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of each medication for your treatment.
At the University of Michigan , we will continue to work with you and your primary physician to ensure you get the best possible care for your sarcoidosis. If you have any other questions about sarcoidosis, ask your doctor.