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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Sarcoidosis

*


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Sarcoid of Boeck
  • Schaumann's disease
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.


Your Question

My friend has been diagnosed with Boeck's sarcoidosis. What is it? What can be done and how does it work? What natural therapy can be used?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease characterized by the development and growth of tiny lumps of cells called granulomas. If these tiny granulomas grow and clump together in an organ, they can affect how the organ works, leading to the symptoms of sarcoidosis.[1] The granulomas can be found in almost any part of the body, but occur more commonly in the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, skin, and liver.[1][2][3] Although no one is sure what causes sarcoidosis, it is thought by most scientists to be a disorder of the immune system.[3] The course of the disease varies from person to person. It often goes away on its own, but in some people symptoms of sarcoidosis may last a lifetime. For those who need treatment, anti-inflammatory medications can help.[2]
Last updated: 3/30/2010

What causes sarcoidosis?

No one yet knows what causes sarcoidosis. It is thought by most scientists to be a disorder of the immune system, where the body's natural defense system malfunctions. Some physicians believe that sarcoidosis may result from a respiratory infection caused by a virus. Others suspect that exposure to toxins or allergens in the environment is to blame.[4] It's also possible that some people have a genetic predisposition to developing sarcoidosis, which, when combined with an environmental trigger, produces the disease.[5] Studies are ongoing to investigate the genetic and environmental components of this disease.[4][5]

 


Last updated: 2/10/2009

What symptoms are associated with sarcoidosis?

The disease can appear suddenly and disappear, or it can develop gradually and go on to produce symptoms that come and go, sometimes for a lifetime. As sarcoidosis progresses, small lumps, or granulomas, appear in the affected tissues. In the majority of cases, these granulomas clear up, either with or without treatment. In the few cases where the granulomas do not heal and disappear, the tissues tend to remain inflamed and become scarred (fibrotic).[1][4]

Shortness of breath (dyspnea) and a cough that won't go away can be among the first symptoms of sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis can also show up suddenly with the appearance of skin rashes. Red bumps (erythema nodosum) on the face, arms, or shins, and inflammation of the eyes are also common symptoms. It is not unusual, however, for sarcoidosis symptoms to be more general. Weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever, or just an overall feeling of ill health can also be clues to the disease.[1][4]

Ninety percent of the cases of sarcoidosis are found in the lungs.[1][4]

Other commonly affected sites are [1][4]:

  •   Skin
  •   Liver
  •   Lymph glands
  •   Spleen
  •   Eyes
  •   Nervous system, including the brain
  •   Musculoskeletal system (the muscles and bones in the body)
  •   Heart
  •   Kidneys
Last updated: 2/10/2009

What treatment is available for sarcoidosis?

The treatment of sarcoidosis depends on [1][4][6]

  • the symptoms present
  • the severity of the symptoms
  • whether any of vital organs (e.g., your lungs, eyes, heart, or brain) are affected
  • how the organ is affected.

Some organs must be treated, regardless of your symptoms. Others may not need to be treated. Usually, if a patient doesn't have symptoms, he or she doesn't need treatment, and probably will recover in time. [1][4][6]

Currently, the drug that is most commonly used to treat sarcoidosis is prednisone.  When a patient's condition gets worse when taking prednisone or when the side effects of prednisone are severe in the patient, a doctor may prescribe other drugs.  Most of these other drugs are immune system suppresants.  This means that they prevent one's immune system from fighting things like bacteria and viruses.  These other drugs include: hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), methotrexate, azathioprine (Imuran), and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).  Other drugs being studied for possible use in treating sarcoidosis include:  etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (remicaide), pentoxifylline, tetracycline, thalidomide.[1][4][6]

More detailed information about the treatment of sarcoidosis can be found at the following links:
http://www.stopsarcoidosis.org/sarcoidosis/treatment.htm
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1123970-treatment

Last updated: 2/11/2009

Is there any information about alternative therapies for sarcoidosis?

You can find relevant journal articles on alternative therapies for sarcoidosis through a service called PubMed, a searchable database of biomedical journal articles. Although not all of the articles are available for free online, most articles listed in PubMed have a summary available. To obtain the full article, contact a medical/university library or your local library for interlibrary loan. You can also order articles online through the publisher’s Web site. Using sarcoidosis AND alternative medicine as your search term should locate articles. To narrow your search, click on the filters on the left side of the screenbox and specify your criteria for locating more relevant articles.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Web site has a page for locating libraries in your area that can provide direct access to these journals (print or online). The Web page also describes how you can get these articles through interlibrary loan and Loansome Doc (an NLM document-ordering service). You can access this page at the following link http://nnlm.gov/members/. You can also contact the NLM toll-free at 888-346-3656 to locate libraries in your area.

Last updated: 10/11/2013

Is there an institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that may be able to provide information about alternative therapies for sarcoidosis?

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  The NCCAM, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides information about complementary and alternative healing practices.   We recommend you or your friend contact them directly to learn more.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clearinghouse (NCCAM)
P.O. Box 7923
Gaithersburg, MD 20898
Toll-free: 888-644-6226
International: 301-519-3153
TTY: 866-464-3615
Fax: 866-464-3616
E-mail: info@nccam.nih.gov
Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov

Last updated: 8/7/2008

References