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Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine

What is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis, or sarcoid for short, is a disease in which the body’s immune system becomes activated for unclear reasons. Since the lungs are affected in more than 90% of patients with sarcoid, pulmonologists are usually called upon to take care of patients with this disease. Sarcoid can occur silently and become detected incidentally when a CXR is obtained for other reasons, or can produce symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath. Since sarcoid often resolves spontaneously, treatment is not always necessary. Sarcoid can also affect the skin and the eyes, and rarely other organs of the body.

What Causes Sarcoid?

The cause of sarcoid is unknown. It is currently felt that sarcoid develops due to an exaggerated immune response in genetically predisposed individuals after exposure to an environmental stimulus. Unfortunately, both the genetic factors contributing to the development of disease and the environmental triggers that persons who develop sarcoid may be exposed to are poorly understood. Research is underway in the UNC Pulmonary Research Center and other medical centers across the country and world to improve our understanding of sarcoid.

How is Sarcoid Treated?

Sarcoid does not always need to be treated. In many patients the disease goes away spontaneously, and in others it remains dormant causing little or no symptoms. For these reasons, your doctor may not recommend any therapy. Sometimes, however, vital organs become affected by sarcoid and treatment becomes necessary. The drug most commonly used to treat sarcoid is prednisone. Other drugs that may be used include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), methotrexate, and azathioprine (Imuran).


Basic Research

Sarcoid is characterized by a special type of inflammation called granulomatous inflammation. Since it is difficult to study the genetic changes and inflammatory mediators present in sarcoid granulomas of people, animal models are essential for fully understanding the disease process, and identifying new avenues of treatment. The Pulmonary Research Center is currently investigating different models of granulomatous inflammation to further advance our knowledge about the biology of this disease.

Clinical Research

To view current clinical trials, please visit our clinical trials homepage.

Contact Us

For clinic appointments or referrals, please contact the Pulmonary Clinic: 919-966-6838.

Links & Additional Information

These links will take you to websites with more information on sarcoid:

  • Sarcoidosis Center – (for patients): A site for patients and families. Gives basic information and references