Ocular Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease. “Autoimmune” disease is when the body’s own immune system acts up and generates unneeded inflammation. Autoimmune disease can affect any part of the body, including the eye. Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease that tends to affect the lungs and/or the eye, even though it can also affect any other organ. Nobody knows exactly what causes sarcoidosis. Likely genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Sarcoidosis is diagnosed in a definitive fashion with a biopsy. Sometimes lung or skin is biopsied. The inside of the eye is difficult to biopsy and hence is almost never biopsied. If we suspect sarcoidosis affecting the eye, we may ask you to see a lung doctor or a skin doctor for evaluation and possible biopsy. However, sarcoidosis may affect only the eye in certain patients, so we may make our diagnosis based on how the inside of the eye looks, without taking any biopsy.

Sarcoidosis is a very variable disease in the eye. Some patients may have mild disease that can be treated as needed with short course of steroid drops, injections, or pills. Other patients may have more severe disease that necessitates special medicines that damp down the activitiy of the immune system (“immunomodulatory drugs”).


More resources for sarcoidosis:

American Lung Association

National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health

Mayo Clinic

Scientific review article