Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that usually involves the lungs, but may affect any organ in the body. It is characterized by granulomas—abnormal collections of inflamed cells, tissue and blood vessels—that appear in the affected organs. In the United States, it is estimated that up to 4 in 10,000 people have sarcoidosis.
More common in women than men, it mainly affects adults between 20 and 40 years of age. African-Americans are more likely to have sarcoidosis than Caucasians. Caucasian people of Scandinavian, German, Irish and Puerto Rican descent are more likely to get the disease than those of other descent. The reason for the varying frequency of sarcoidosis among different ethnic groups is unclear.
In rare cases, sarcoidosis may affect the nervous system and cause neurological problems, including peripheral neuropathy. Granulomas may occur in the brain, spinal cord, facial nerve and optic nerve, potentially causing facial paralysis and other symptoms of nerve damage, including peripheral neuropathy.
No one knows what causes sarcoidosis. It might be the result of a disorder of the immune system, caused by a virus, or be due to exposure to an unknown substance in the environment. Genetic predisposition may be an important factor in the development of the disease. In most cases, sarcoidosis heals naturally. Patients with more severe cases may require treatment for long periods of time. The disease is not contagious.
Symptoms & Signs
(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)
It’s possible to have no symptoms, or to have symptoms that appear suddenly and then vanish, without the patient or doctor noticing or understanding the cause. The symptoms will vary, depending upon the parts of the body that are affected.
Symptoms may include:
- Arthritis or myositis (an inflammatory muscle disease)
- Blurred vision
- Enlarged and tender lymph glands, especially in the chest
- Fever, night sweats
- Lung problems, such as shortness of breath, dry cough or chest pain
- Painful, swollen ankles
- Red or teary eyes
- Skin problems, such as a tender red or purple raised skin rash.
- Weight loss
For peripheral neuropathy, look for these signs:
Evaluation & Tests
(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)
- Neurological exam
- Nerve conduction velocity test
- X-ray (typically of chest)
- CAT scan
- Eye exam
- Pulmonary function (breathing) tests
- Blood tests
Treatment & Therapy
(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)
- Medications, such as corticosteroids
- Physical therapy to keep affected organs working
- Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation