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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 152 No. 0102 (2022)

Sarcoidosis – a multisystem disease

  • Daniel P. Franzen
  • Martin Brutsche
  • Jakob Nilsson
  • Christian Böni
  • Cécile Daccord
  • Oliver Distler
  • Dieter Elsener
  • Manuela Funke-Chambour
  • Christiane Gruner
  • Helen Hayward-Könnecke
  • Katrin E. Hostettler
  • Thomas Kündig
  • Camillo Ribi
  • Jörg D. Seebach
  • Harald Seeger
  • Bart Vrugt
  • Antonios G. A. Kolios
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2022;152:w30049


Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disease, characterised by granuloma formation upon an unknown trigger in genetically predisposed individuals. The inflammation is characterised by an activation of both the innate immune system, with macrophages differentiating into epitheloid cells and dendritic cells, and the adaptive immune system, particularly T helper (Th) 1 and Th17 cells. Since all organs can be affected to varying extents, clinical presentation is often diverse. Most commonly, the lungs, lymph nodes, skin and eyes are involved, whereas cardiac, renal and neurological manifestations are less common but associated with higher morbidity. Depending on the clinical symptoms, a detailed evaluation including thorough clinical examination, imaging and laboratory tests should explore all possible organ involvements. In some patients, fatigue manifests as a para-sarcoidosis symptom impacting quality of life, even if sarcoidosis is in remission.

Some acute syndromic presentations, such as Löfgren’s syndrome, have a good prognosis and are commonly self-limiting. If possible, a topical treatment, for example for cutaneous sarcoidosis or bronchial involvement, should be applied. Treatment of severe cases with persisting disease activity necessitates long-term immunosuppressive drugs, with glucocorticoids as the first-line option. Steroid-sparing and second-line drugs include methotrexate, azathioprine, mycophenolate mofetil and immunomodulators such hydroxychloroquine, with the latter being first-line therapy in cutaneous sarcoidosis. Tumour necrosis factor-alpha  inhibitors (particularly adalimumab and infliximab) are used as third-line agents but are administered earlier in cases of persistent disease activity, severe organ-involvement or intolerance to conventional drugs. Treatment decisions should be based on a multidisciplinary approach, depending on organ involvement and treatment tolerability. Para-sarcoidosis manifestations, particularly fatigue, should also be carefully addressed, where the patient could also be enrolled in multidimensional rehabilitation programmes.

With various organ involvement and different phenotypes, larger studies including real-world data from registries are necessary to evaluate different sarcoidosis endotypes and preferential treatment pathways.


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