How is sarcoidosis treated?
Sarcoidosis can get better without medication. This means it’s normal for your doctor to keep an eye on your symptoms for a few months before talking about treatment. It’s usual to have regular chest X-rays, breathing tests and blood tests to monitor your condition.
Many people with sarcoidosis don’t need treatment.
But treatment may be needed if:
- symptoms are affecting your quality of life
- scarring in your organs is severe enough to be potentially dangerous
Most people with acute sarcoidosis, which is short term, won’t need specific treatment. If your sarcoidosis is causing you pain, such as muscle or joint pain, a painkiller such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help.
Treatment for sarcoidosis is aimed at improving your symptoms and preventing inflammation from causing scarring and damage to the affected parts of your body.
Steroids are an effective treatment. Sometimes they can be used directly on the part of your body that’s affected. For example, you can use eye drops for eye symptoms. More often, you’ll take them as a course of tablets.
If you take high doses of steroids for a long time, you can experience side effects. These can include increased appetite and weight gain, indigestion, heartburn, mood disturbance and difficulty sleeping. They can also cause thinning of the bones, or osteoporosis.
For this reason, you’ll usually take a high dose of tablets for a short time, followed by a lower dose over a much longer period. If you stop taking steroids too soon, your condition might become active again and cause more scarring. So, you’ll often need to continue the treatment for up to two years.
Often you’ll only need one course of steroids, but sometimes you might need to take a second course. Only a small number of people with sarcoidosis need long-term treatment with steroids. If you take steroids long term, most health care centres will recommend a bone density scan. This may be repeated if you take steroids for over 2 years.
For a very small number of people, steroids are not enough to control their symptoms, or the dose needed to control symptoms in the longer term is too high. These people may need to take other medications called immunosuppressants that help control your body’s immune system, such as methotrexate, azathioprine, hydroxychloroquine and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF).
These all require careful monitoring with regular blood tests and may increase your risk of infection. Some have side effects that you should discuss with your health care professional.
Looking after yourself
If you have sarcoidosis, you might have a tendency to develop high levels of calcium in your urine or blood. Don’t take any calcium or vitamin D supplements unless they’re specifically recommended for you by your sarcoidosis specialist. You should be able to get all the calcium and vitamin D you need from your diet.
As with any lung condition, it’s important to eat well and maintain a healthy weight.
Stress often triggers sarcoidosis symptoms. It’s helpful to think carefully about your lifestyle. Talk to your friends or family or a health care professional about how you feel, and try to find ways to reduce stress in your life.
If you smoke, the best thing you can do to look after your health is to quit.
Getting regular exercise and enough sleep is very important.