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Sarcoidosis Overview

Sarcoidosis, also known as sarcoid, is a disease that most commonly affects the lungs, but can affect any organ in the body, including the:

  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Joints
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Muscles
  • Skin

When tissue from a person with sarcoid is viewed under a microscope, tiny nodules — called “granulomas” — are seen.

Symptoms of sarcoid

People affected by sarcoid in the lungs may experience:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Shortness of breath

While there is no known cause for sarcoid, the University of Pittsburgh Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease at UPMC is one of the largest centers in the world for management of the disease.

Our patients participate in a wide array of clinical research studies, such as trials of experimental medicines. Based on our research, we aim to better understand the causes of sarcoid and devise a new generation of treatments.

Additional Resources

Learn more about the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine.

Diagnosing Sarcoidosis

To determine the best route for treatment, UPMC specialists will:

  • Ask about your symptoms
  • Evaluate your medical history
  • Perform a physical exam

Testing for sarcoid

For many people, the first test will be an x-ray of the chest.

The chest x-ray may show tiny nodules (“granulomas”) and enlarged lymph nodes, which suggest a diagnosis of sarcoid.

Other tests include:

  • High resolution CT scans of the chest — to provide a more detailed picture of the lungs.
  • Pulmonary function tests — to provide information on how the lungs are func tioning. These include spirometry, lung volumes, and DLCO (diffusing capacity).
  • Oxygen saturation tests — to determine if you need extra oxygen to help maintain easy breathing.
  • Blood tests — to look for other causes of inflammation in the lung.
  • An echocardiogram — to show how the heart is functioning and if sarcoid is affecting the heart.
  • A biopsy, either by bronchoscopy or by a surgical lung biopsy — to determine if granulomas are present.

Sarcoidosis Treatment

Sarcoid symptoms vary in severity.

In many people, sarcoid resolves on its own or with a short course of treatment. In others, the disease progresses and may require long-term treatment and possibly a lung transplant.

The treatment team

A critical component in the management of sarcoid is referral to a center that specializes in the disease.

At the University of Pittsburgh Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease a t UPMC, patients are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team that includes:

  • Pulmonary physicians — who are experts in the management of sarcoid
  • Cardiologists — who evaluate the involvement of the heart and pulmonary vessels
  • Rheumatologists — who assess the immune system
  • Pathologists — who evaluate the biopsies
  • Chest radiology experts — who evaluate imaging results
  • Rehabilitation and quality-of-life experts — who optimize supportive therapy and assess the psychological impact of sarcoid
  • Transplant surgeons
  • Leaders in clinical research — who provide access to novel sarcoid therapies

The team will re-evaluate your diagnosis and assess treatment strategies, once diagnosis of sarcoid is confirmed.

Treatment options for sarcoidosis

Several treatments for sarcoid are available.

The most commonly used medicine, to help control the symptoms of sarcoid, is prednisone. Prednisone belongs to the class of medications called corticosteroids, which are potent anti-inflammatory medicines.

Your doctor may ultimately decrease the dose of prednisone and add other medications to help prevent the symptoms of sarcoid from returning.

Other very important treatments for sarcoid include:

Our doctors are familiar with the latest research, scientific literature, and recommendations from national organizations such as the American Thoracic Society .