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Medication for Sarcoidosis

If sarcoidosis does not resolve on its own, your doctor may prescribe medication. Several specialists at NYU Langone’s Sarcoidosis Program may be involved in your care, depending on which organs are affected.

The goal of treatment is to calm the overactive immune system, decrease inflammation, prevent damage to the lungs and other organs, and alleviate discomfort. NYU Langone specialists may prescribe one or more of the following medications, adjusting the dosage according to your progress.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, also known as steroids, are the most commonly prescribed medications for sarcoidosis. They help decrease inflammation by suppressing infection-fighting white blood cells. The steroid prednisone is prescribed most often. Your doctor chooses the dosage depending on your symptoms.

Corticosteroids can be used to treat skin sarcoidosis, as well as other types. Treatments may include oral medications or systemic injection medications.

Steroids are generally taken by mouth for several weeks or months. However, if they are used for a long time, steroids can have serious side effects, such as cataracts, osteoporosis, obesity, and elevated blood sugar levels. For this reason, doctors prescribe steroids with caution and supervise their use closely.

Immunosuppressive Agents

If your symptoms don’t improve with corticosteroids, your doctor may prescribe immunosuppressive medications, which may calm an overactive immune system and decrease inflammation. The immunosuppressants most commonly prescribed for sarcoidosis include methotrexate, azathioprine, and leflunomide. Your doctor will discuss these medications with you and if they are recommended as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy.

Antimalarial Medications

If sarcoidosis affects your skin, lungs, or brain, your doctor may prescribe medications that are commonly used to treat malaria. Two of these medications, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, can decrease inflammation, as well as relieve joint pain and fatigue. They are taken by mouth. Your doctor determines the dosage depending on your symptoms.

Advanced Therapies

For severe symptoms of sarcoidosis, doctors may recommend advanced therapies such as biologic response modifiers, also known as biologics. They are the newest class of medication used to manage sarcoidosis.

Most biologics work by targeting and stopping the production of immune system chemicals, which are thought to cause inflammation and damage in the body.

Commonly prescribed medications include infliximab and adalimumab. These medications are part of a class of biologics called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists.

Because biologics affect the immune system’s ability to fight infection, doctors consider your overall health and medical history before recommending them. Most people are tested for tuberculosis before starting a biologic. Such a test is important, because even inactive tuberculosis can be reactivated if biologic medications are used.

New research continues to uncover potential treatments for sarcoidosis. Our doctors, part of NYU Langone’s Sarcoidosis Program, have access to additional therapies that are used to treat sarcoidosis and may recommend them based on a comprehensive exam and treatment strategy.

Anti-Inflammatories

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are occasionally recommended for people with sarcoidosis to reduce inflammation and relieve the symptoms of arthritis and fever. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. They are all taken by mouth and are available over the counter in drugstores.

Long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to heartburn, vomiting, or stomach bleeding. It is important to consult your doctor before taking these medications to treat sarcoidosis symptoms.