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Other Causes Of Joint Pain
Sarcoidosis -- a disorder associated with a variety of symptoms -- occurs in up to 65 per 100,000 persons, yet the cause is unknown.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Sarcoidosis: More Than Skin Deep
Some disorders seem to get all the attention — many people have heard of lupus and muscular dystrophy. Far fewer have heard of sarcoidosis. However, sarcoidosis is at least as common as these other, more well-known conditions. Perhaps it is the odd name — derived from the Greek "sarc" (skin) and "oid" (like), literally "skin-like," referring to the skin problems (rash, inflammation) that may occur in people with this disorder.
Sarcoidosis occurs in up to 65 per 100,000 persons and is common enough that, in 1990, there was a National Sarcoidosis Awareness Day in the United States. This disorder has affected at least one celebrity: model, actress and MTV star Karen Duffy. She even wrote a book about her experience as a patient.
What If You Have Sarcoidosis?
The typical patient with sarcoidosis is a young woman, between the ages of 20 and 40, who has symptoms of asthma, a rash or sore joints, or she may feel fine but have an abnormal chest X-ray. The cause of sarcoidosis is not known, but for uncertain reasons, it is much more common in women, African-Americans and persons of Scandinavian, German, Irish or Puerto Rican descent.
Sarcoidosis causes inflammation in various areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, lungs, skin, eyes or joints. Less common problems include fever, hepatitis, salivary gland inflammation or neurologic disease such as meningitis. The diagnosis is established by a biopsy of an involved area. The presence of a particular type of inflammation called a granuloma is usually definitive. Often, the most pressing issue in diagnosis is to make sure the enlarged lymph nodes or inflamed tissues are not caused by an infection or cancer. In these situations, a finding of sarcoidosis, a benign condition, is welcome news. For most patients, the condition is not dangerous.
For many (or perhaps most) people with sarcoidosis, no treatment is required. Typical asthma medicines, such as bronchodilator inhalers, acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory agents (such as ibuprofen) for painful joints are the most common treatments offered; treatment also involves close medical supervision. For severe disease, corticosteroids and other immune-suppressing medications are warranted.
The Future
Research into sarcoidosis is ongoing. In 1995, the National Institutes of Health started a multisite study of all facets of the illness. Results of that study have provided important insights into the disease, including genetic contributors and variability in disease expression. However, its cause remains unknown, and there is still no cure. Hopefully, research studies will soon make sarcoidosis better understood and no longer a well-kept secret.
Additional Information
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
6701 Rockledge Dr.
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Phone: (301) 592-8573
National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Building 31, Room 7A-50
31 Center Dr. MSC 2520
Bethesda, MD 20892-2520
Phone: (301) 496-5717
Sarcoidosis Family Aid and Research Foundation
460A Central Avenue
East Orange, NJ 07018
American Lung Association
1740 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
Toll-free: (800) 586-4872


Last updated April 03, 2009

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