What is pulmonary sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a rare disease
caused by inflammation. It often occurs in the lungs and lymph nodes, but it can occur
in almost any organ.
Sarcoidosis in the lungs is called
pulmonary sarcoidosis. It causes small lumps of inflammatory cells in the lungs. These
lumps are called granulomas and can affect how the lungs work. The granulomas generally
heal and disappear on their own. But, if they don’t heal, the lung tissue can remain
inflamed and become scarred and stiff. This is called pulmonary fibrosis. It changes the
structure of the lungs and can affect your breathing. Bronchiectasis can also
occur. This is when the airways become thickened and widened from ongoing (chronic)
inflammation or infection. But, these problems are not common.
What causes pulmonary sarcoidosis?
Experts don’t know what causes
pulmonary sarcoidosis. They think that bacteria, viruses, or chemicals might trigger the
disease. It may also be genetic. This means a person is more likely to develop
sarcoidosis if someone in their close family has it. This is an active area of
What are the symptoms of pulmonary sarcoidosis?
Most people with sarcoidosis don’t
have symptoms and likely don’t know they have the disease. It can affect many organs,
causing a variety of symptoms. Pulmonary sarcoidosis can reduce the amount of air the
lungs can hold and cause lung stiffness.
Symptoms may be a bit different for
each person. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath, which often gets worse with activity
- Dry cough that won’t go away
- Chest pain
Sarcoidosis can also cause symptoms not directly related to the lungs, such as:
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Inflammation of the eyes and pain, burning, blurred vision, and light sensitivity
- Night sweats
- Pain in the joints and bones
- Skin rashes, lumps, and color changes on face, arms, or shins
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
The symptoms of pulmonary
sarcoidosis may look like other conditions or health problems. Talk with your healthcare
provider for a diagnosis.
How is pulmonary sarcoidosis diagnosed?
In addition to a complete health
history and physical exam, tests used may include:
Chest X-ray. This imaging test is
used to assess the lungs, as well as the heart. Chest X-rays may show important
information about the size, shape, and location of the lungs, large breathing tubes
(bronchi), and the area in the middle of the chest separating the lungs
CT scan. This imaging test uses
X-rays and computer technology to make horizontal images (called slices) of the body.
A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the lungs. CT
scans are more detailed than regular X-rays. They can be used to diagnose lung
diseases, watch disease progression, and assess response to treatment.
Pulmonary function tests. These are
tests that help to measure the lungs’ ability to move air in and out of the lungs.
The tests are often done with special machines into which the person must
- Blood tests. These can be used to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood, evaluate liver and kidney function, and look for infection and other diseases.
Bronchoscopy. A long, thin, flexible
tube (bronchoscope) with a light at the end is put down the throat and into the
lungs. This lets the doctor to view the bronchi, the main airways of the lungs. It is
done to help evaluate and diagnose lung problems. Lung tissue samples (biopsies) and
lung washings (lavage) that remove cells from the lungs can be done through the
Bronchoalveolar lavage. A sterile
saline solution is put into the lungs through a bronchoscope and then suctioned out.
The saline carries out cells from the lower respiratory tract. These cells can be
checked under a microscope to help find inflammation and infection. The test can help
rule out certain causes.
Lung biopsy. A small piece of tissue,
cells, or fluid from the lungs is taken out and checked under a microscope.
Sarcoidosis is often diagnosed when
other lung disorders are ruled out.