Pulmonary sarcoidosis causes inflammation and lumps called granulomas in the lungs. It can cause shortness of breath, cough and fatigue. The condition can go away on its own, but some people need treatment with prednisone or other medications. Rarely, pulmonary sarcoidosis can cause permanent, irreversible scarring and damage to lung tissue.
Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammation (swelling). It causes tiny, grain-like lumps of immune cells to form, called granulomas.
Pulmonary sarcoidosis affects the lungs. Sarcoidosis can also affect the skin, lymph nodes or any other organ in the body.
Many cases of pulmonary sarcoidosis go away. But the inflammation can cause permanent scarring in the lungs.
Sarcoidosis isn’t a type of cancer. But some studies have shown that people with sarcoidosis have an increased risk of cancer.
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Not all people with this condition have signs of disease. But pulmonary sarcoidosis symptoms may include:
Many people with pulmonary sarcoidosis also experience depression. This disorder is common among those who have conditions that interfere with their daily lives or social activities.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes pulmonary sarcoidosis. Some cases run in families. Others are related to exposure to medications, chemicals, bacteria or viruses. Researchers are continuing to study possible causes.
In the United States, 150,000 to 200,000 people live with sarcoidosis. It affects 11 out of 100,000 white people and 34 of every 100,000 African Americans. Overall, a person has about a 2.4% chance of developing the condition.
Most cases of sarcoidosis affect the lungs.
Pulmonary sarcoidosis affects all genders, ages and races. But it’s more common among:
If a healthcare provider suspects pulmonary sarcoidosis, they may order the following tests:
Based on your test results and symptoms, your healthcare provider may assign a stage. The stages of pulmonary sarcoidosis range from no disease to the most severe disease:
Not everyone with pulmonary sarcoidosis needs treatment. The condition often goes away on its own.
But if you need treatment, your healthcare provider will probably recommend prednisone. This corticosteroid calms the immune system. But the medication can cause side effects if used for a long time, so it’s only appropriate for short-term treatment.
For people who need treatment for pulmonary sarcoidosis but can’t tolerate prednisone, healthcare providers may recommend:
Rare, severe cases of pulmonary sarcoidosis cause permanent lung damage, which may require:
Scientists don’t understand what causes pulmonary sarcoidosis, so there are no proven strategies to prevent it. However, some cases have been linked to exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides. Avoiding chemicals may keep your lungs healthier.
Many cases of pulmonary sarcoidosis get better on their own, which is called spontaneous remission. Other cases go away with short-term treatment. Those cases aren’t life-threatening.
However, over time, pulmonary sarcoidosis can create permanent scarring in the lungs, which can shorten someone’s life span.
Some people may achieve permanent remission. This means the condition goes away and doesn’t come back.
But pulmonary sarcoidosis can relapse (come back after remission or successful treatment). This is sometimes called a flare.
If granulomas don’t heal, they can cause complications, including:
If you’ve been diagnosed with pulmonary sarcoidosis, certain strategies can help you manage the condition:
Your healthcare provider will talk to you about signs and symptoms to report. These vary depending on the locations of sarcoidosis. With pulmonary sarcoidosis, seek medical attention for any sudden changes in your ability to breathe.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pulmonary sarcoidosis causes inflammation and tiny lumps called granulomas in the lungs. Many people with this condition get well on their own or feel better with short-term treatment. If you have trouble breathing, talk to a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/11/2023.
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