Sarcoidosis involves inflammation that produces tiny lumps of cells in various organs in your body. The lumps are called granulomas
because they look like grains of sugar or sand. They are very small and can be seen only with a microscope.
These tiny granulomas can grow and clump together, making many large and small groups of lumps. If many granulomas form in an organ, they can affect how the organ works.
This can cause symptoms of sarcoidosis.
Many people who have sarcoidosis have no symptoms. Often, the condition is discovered by accident only because a person has a chest x ray for another reason, such as a pre-employment x ray.
Some people have very few symptoms, but others have many.
Symptoms usually depend on which organs the disease affects.
- Shortness of breath
- A dry cough that doesn't bring up phlegm (flem), or mucus
- Pain in the middle of your chest that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough (rare).
Lymph Node Symptoms
- Enlarged and sometimes tender lymph nodes - most often those in your neck and chest but sometimes those under your chin, in your arm pits, or in your groin.
- Various types of bumps, ulcers, or, rarely, flat areas of discolored skin, that appear mostly near your nose, eyes, back, arms, legs, and scalp.
They usually itch but aren't painful. They usually last a long time.
- Painful bumps that usually appear on your ankles and shins and can be warm, tender, red or purple-to-red in color, and slightly raised.
This is called erythema nodosum. You may have fever and swollen ankles and joint pain along with the bumps. The bumps often are an early sign of sarcoidosis,
but they occur in other diseases too. The bumps usually go away in weeks to months, even without treatment.
- Disfiguring skin sores that may affect your nose, nasal passages, cheeks, ears, eyelids, and fingers. This is called lupus pernio. The sores tend to be ongoing and can return after treatment is over.
- Burning, itching, tearing, pain
- Red eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Floaters (i.e., seeing black spots)
- Blurred vision
- Reduced color vision
- Reduced visual clearness
- Blindness (in rare cases).
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in your legs
- Irregular heartbeat, including palpitations (a fluttering feeling of rapid heartbeats) and skipped beats
- Sudden loss of consciousness
- Sudden death.
Joint and Muscle Symptoms
- Joint stiffness or swelling - usually in your ankles, feet, and hands.
- Joint pain.
- Muscle aches (myalgias).
- Muscle pain, a mass in a muscle, or muscle weakness.
- Painful arthritis in your ankles that results from erythema nodosum. It may need treatment but usually clears up in several weeks.
- Painless arthritis that can last for months or even years. It should be treated.
- Painless holes in your bones.
- Painless swelling, most often in your fingers.
- Anemia that results from granulomas affecting your bone marrow. This usually should be treated.
- Pain in the upper right part of your abdomen, under the right ribs
- Enlarged liver.
Parotid and Other Salivary Gland Symptoms
- Swelling, which makes your cheeks look puffy
- Excessive dryness in your mouth and throat.
Blood, Urinary Tract, and Kidney Symptoms
- Increased calcium in your blood or urine, which can lead to painful kidney stones
- Increased urination.
Nervous System Symptoms
- Vision problems.
- Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg.
- Coma (rare).
- Drooping of one side of your face that results from sarcoidosis affecting a facial nerve. This can be confused with Bell's palsy, a disorder that may be caused by a virus.
- Paralysis of your arms or legs that results from sarcoidosis affecting your spinal cord.
- Weakness, pain, or a "stinging needles" sensation in areas where many nerves are affected by
Pituitary Gland Symptoms (Rare)
- Vision problems
- Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
- Coma (rare).
- Nasal obstruction or frequent bouts of sinusitis.
- Enlarged spleen, which leads to a decrease in platelets in your blood and pain in your upper left abdomen. Platelets are needed to help your blood clot.
Sarcoidosis may also cause more general symptoms, including:
- Uneasiness, feeling sick (malaise), an overall feeling of ill health
- Tiredness, fatigue, weakness
- Loss of appetite or weight
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
These general symptoms are often caused by other conditions. If you have these general symptoms but don't have symptoms from affected organs, you probably do not have sarcoidosis.
The cause of sarcoidosis is not known. And, there may be more than one thing that causes it.
Scientists think that sarcoidosis develops when your immune system responds to something in the environment (e.g., bacteria, viruses, dust, chemicals)
or perhaps to your own body tissue (autoimmunity).
Normally, your immune system defends your body against things that it sees as foreign and harmful. It does this by sending special cells to the organs that are being affected by these things.
These cells release chemicals that produce inflammation around the foreign substance or substances to isolate and destroy them.
In sarcoidosis, this inflammation remains and leads to the development of granulomas or lumps.
Scientists have not yet identified the specific substance or substances that trigger the immune system response in the first place.
They also think that sarcoidosis develops only if you have inherited a certain combination of genes.
You can't catch sarcoidosis from someone who has it.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, USA.