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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a rare condition that mainly affects people's lungs, although sometimes it can affect other parts of the body. It's caused by small pockets of inflammation called granulomas.

Sarcoidosis usually happens to people aged between 25 and 45.

Symptoms can include:

Some people have no symptoms and it's picked up in a routine chest X-ray.

Doctors do not know exactly what causes sarcoidosis, but it seems to run in families. One theory is that an infection triggers it in people whose genes put them at risk of getting it. In spite of years of research, no specific infection has been identified as the cause of sarcoidosis.

Most people have acute sarcoidosis, which only lasts a few years. But there is a rarer form known as chronic sarcoidosis that can need long-term treatment.

Diagnosing sarcoidosis

If you think you may have sarcoidosis, speak to your GP who can organise some tests for you. These may include a complete blood count, a chest X-ray and spirometry, which is a test to measure how well your lungs are working.

You may need to see a hospital specialist for further tests, such as a CT scan or a biopsy (which means taking a small bit of your tissue so it can be tested in a laboratory).

Treating sarcoidosis

As sarcoidosis often goes away on its own within one to three years, many people with mild disease will not need any treatment. Your doctor will monitor you over this time.

If you have more severe symptoms, you'll usually be treated with oral steroids (prednisone). Sometimes you'll also need medicines that suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants).

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2021.

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Review key: HISAR-288920