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Sarcoidosis and your skin: Who gets and causes

Who gets sarcoidosis?

People around the world get this disease. Studies indicate that sarcoidosis is most common in:

  • Women

  • Adults (rare in children)

  • Scandinavians

In the United States, African American women tend to develop sarcoidosis more often than other people. African Americans in the United States also tend to have more serious disease. They are more likely than whites to have sarcoidosis in their lungs.

In the United States, Black people have a higher risk of developing sarcoidosis than people of other races and Black women have the highest risk.

Worldwide, women have a slightly higher risk of developing this disease than men.

Black women laughing over coffee.

In Scandinavia, where the disease is most common, there are two peak periods for getting sarcoidosis—between 25 to 29 years of age and 65 to 69 years of age.

While where you live, your age, and your gender seem to play important roles, there are other risk factors. It’s believed that you’re more likely to develop sarcoidosis if you:

  • Have blood relatives with sarcoidosis

  • Are (or were) a firefighter

  • Were exposed to the dust released into the air during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11

  • Work or live in a place where you breath (or breathed) in particles from insecticides, metals, moldy places, or wood-burning stoves

  • Are (or were) exposed to bacteria, viruses, or fungi often

What causes sarcoidosis?

Advances in biomedical research are helping scientists run studies that can help them find the exact cause.

To date, findings from research studies suggest that people get sarcoidosis when something in their immune system over-reacts. This is still a theory, though. It may be that people who carry certain genes get sarcoidosis when they are exposed to a trigger.

Common triggers for sarcoidosis may be breathing in smoke from a wood-burning stove for many years or working as a firefighter. It’s believed that these triggers cause cells in a person’s immune system to form granulomas, the lumps that form when a person has sarcoidosis.

Of course, this is still a theory.

While the cause is still a bit of a mystery, knowing who needs treatment isn’t. You can find out how dermatologists diagnose and treat sarcoidosis when it affects the skin at, Sarcoidosis and your skin: Diagnosis & treatment

Getty Images

Haimovic A, Sanchez M, et al. “Sarcoidosis: A comprehensive review and update for the dermatologist. Part I. Cutaneous disease.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012; 66:699.e1-18.

Howard A and White CR, Jr. “Non-infectious granulomas.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 1421-6.

Marchell RM, Theirs B, et al. “In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1482-93.

Last updated: 10/22/21