COVID-19 & Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is a chronic disease that can affect organs and tissues in the body. It most commonly affects the lungs. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, people with sarcoidosis can be at greater risk for COVID infections.
Follow these preventive measures to protect your health:
- Get vaccinated (check with your doctor if you take immune system suppressing drugs).
- Wear a mask in public.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap (or hand sanitizer containing 60%+ rubbing alcohol.
- Avoid crowds and people outside your immediate family.
- Stay socially distanced when in public.
- Avoid others who appear sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
Watch the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for updates on COVID-19. Please follow recommendations from National Jewish Health when coming for appointments.
Here are answer to common questions from our sarcoidosis patients.
Q: I have sarcoidosis, do I have a higher risk of getting COVID-19?
A: Generally, yes. However, there hasn’t been enough research to conclude that people with sarcoidosis have an increased risk of developing COVID-19. Sarcoidosis most commonly affects the lungs. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. So logically, people who have sarcoidosis can have increased risk of getting COVID and having more severe symptoms.
COVID-19 is a relatively new disease. Sarcoidosis is a rare disease. We are still learning the impacts of COVID. There have not been any large research studies published about sarcoidosis and COVID-19 risk. Other studies have shown higher rates of COVID in patients with chronic lung diseases than in the population without any lung disease.
Data from 2003-2013 does show that patients who have sarcoidosis and who are on immunosuppressive medication such as prednisone or methotrexate had a higher risk of being hospitalized with a serious infection. This might suggest that sarcoidosis patients on treatment might have a higher risk of developing respiratory infections.
Q: If I get COVID-19, will I have a bad case of COVID or could I have more complications because I have sarcoidosis?
A: Sarcoidosis patients with moderate to severe lung function damage may develop more severe COVID-19 infections or complications from the virus. Those with other preexisting conditions also can increase that risk.
Please follow the precautions to avoid exposure and keep safe.
Q: Is it safe for me to take or continue to take immunosuppressive medications, steroid sparing drugs or biologic agents while I’m sick with COVID-19?
A: Unfortunately, we do not know the answer to this question. There was a recently published opinion statement in the journal CHEST. It recommended balancing treatment that may be lifesaving and preventive with the potential risk of COVID-19 infection. The recommendations also included using the lowest effective dose of immune suppressing medication for patients currently on treatment. Reducing this medication may worsen the sarcoidosis disease.
In general, National Jewish Health providers recommend using lower doses of medications (like prednisone). Our team also works to taper medications to the lowest effective dose every. We strongly encourage sarcoidosis patients to discuss any change in medication dose with their doctor and do not try to reduce or stop any medications on your own.
Q: Are sarcoidosis patients considered high risk or immunocompromised? And if so, when may I get my vaccine?
A: Various factors play into the answer. It depends on each person's age, health, what they do for a living and where they live. If you have a high risk medical conditions, such as being immunocompromised, check recommendations from local health departments and talk with your primary care doctor about when to get vaccinated.
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines on our website and from the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research.
Q: Is the vaccine safe for people with sarcoidosis?
A: We always make decisions about patient care and treatment based on safety and science. This vaccine is no exception. The vaccine has been through an extensive evaluation process, including tens of thousands of people participating in clinical trials. Results indicate it is approximately 95% effective, with some mild side effects (such as fatigue, muscle aches, headache), but no serious safety concerns. We agree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the vaccine is safe and effective, and we encourage you to get vaccinated.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Shu-Yi Liao, MD (July 2022)