There has been a rapid change in recognition and spectrum of sarcoidosis in India in the last decade. This was considered a rare disease almost till the end of the last century even though the disease was recognized and reported from different places. The change is remarkable considering the fact that the number of publications on the subject has suddenly jumped in the last decade. Of 340 total papers which are listed in PubMed since 1980, about two-third (228) have appeared in the last 10 years. There were only rare publications before 1980. The increase can be attributed to several different causes:

  • True increase in incidence
  • Increased awareness of disease among physicians. Many cases of sarcoidosis were dismissed as tuberculosis in the past.
  • Increased availability of diagnostic tests such as chest CT scanning, fiberoptic bronchoscopy and endo-bronchial ultrasound sound guided fine needle aspiration (EBUS-FNA)
  • Insistence of physicians as well as patients in making a confirmed diagnosis than starting an empiric treatment

Clinical spectrum of sarcoidosis:

There is also a change in the spectrum of disease and organ involvement described in the reports of the recent past. Previously, it was mostly the pulmonary involvement i.e. hilar and mediastinal lymphadenopathy which was commonly described. Now, there is a greater recognition of extra-pulmonary involvement including that of the liver, spleen, nervous system and other organs. Moreover, atypical pulmonary presentations such as miliary involvement of lung parenchyma and pleural effusions are frequently reported. It is again a moot question whether this finding is a true change in the spectrum or only an increased recognition because of the factors already listed above.

Sarcoidosis tuberculosis enigma continues to bother physicians in India not only because of similar presentations of both diseases but also since the treatments are different for the two diseases. Corticosteroids, which are used for sarcoidosis may in fact precipitate tuberculosis and are necessarily avoided except in a few specific situations. There is no place to start the treatments for both conditions simultaneously as had been a common practice in the past. It is therefore important to make a firm diagnosis before starting treatment for either condition.

The other major shift which has happened relates to the more frequent use of non-steroidal drugs. Drugs such as methotrexate, hydroxy chloroquin and other immunosuppressants are now available for use for relapse and in the presence of co-morbidities with or without corticosteroid therapy, depending upon the clinical condition.