Navigate Up

Pediatric Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Z

Print This Page

Neurosarcoidosis

Neurosarcoidosis is a complication of sarcoidosis in which inflammation occurs in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the nervous system.

Alternative Names

Sarcoidosis - nervous system

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Sarcoidosis is a long-term disorder that affects many parts of the body, mostly the lungs. In a small number of patients, the disease involves some part of the nervous system. This is called neurosarcoidosis.

Neurosarcoidosis may affect any part of the nervous system. Sudden, facial weakness (facial palsy ) is the most common neurological symptom and involves the nerves to the muscles of the face. Any nerve in the skull can be affected, including those in the eye and those that control taste, smell, or hearing.

The condition can also affect the parts of the brain involved in regulating many body functions such as temperature, sleep, and stress responses.

Muscle weakness or sensory losses can occur with peripheral nerve involvement. Other areas of the brain, including the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, or the spinal cord may also be involved.

Symptoms

Involvement of the pituitary gland can cause:

The symptoms vary. Any part of the nervous system can be affected. Involvement of the brain or cranial nerves can cause:

Involvement of one or more peripheral nerves can lead to:

Signs and tests

An exam may show problems with one or more nerves.

A history of sarcoidosis followed nerve-related symptoms highly suggests neurosarcoidosis. However, symptoms of the condition can mimic other medical disorders, including diabetes insipidus , hypopituitarism , optic neuritis , meningitis , and certain tumors.

Blood tests are not very helpful in diagnosing the condition. A lumbar puncture may show signs of inflammation. Increased levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme may be found in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). However, this is not a reliable diagnostic test.

MRI of the brain may be helpful. A chest x-ray often reveals signs of the sarcoidosis of the lungs. Nerve biopsy of affected nerve tissue confirms the disorder.

Treatment

There is no known cure for the sarcoidosis. Treatment is indicated if symptoms are severe or progressive. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms.

Corticosteroids such as prednisone are prescribed to reduce inflammation. They are often prescribed until symptom get better or go away. You may need to take the medicines for months, even years.

Other medications may include hormone replacement and medicines that suppress the immune system.

If you have numbness, weakness, vision or hearing problems, or other problems due to damage of the nerves in the head, you may need physical therapy, braces, a cane, or walker.

Psychiatric disorders or dementia may require medication for depression, safety interventions, and assistance with care.

Expectations (prognosis)

Some cases go away on their own in 4-6 months. Other cases continue off and on for the rest of the person's life. Neurosarcoidosis can cause permanent disability and, in some cases, death.

Complications

Complications vary depending on which part of the nervous system is involved and how you respond to treatment. Slowly worsening or permanent loss of neurological function is possible. In rare cases, the brainstem may be involved. This is life threatening.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have sarcoidosis and any neurological symptoms occur.

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have a sudden loss of sensation, movement, or body function.

Prevention

Aggressive treatment of sarcoidosis turns off the body's faulty immune response before your nerves become damaged. This may reduce the chance that neurological symptoms will occur.

References

Aminoff MJ, Josephson SA. Neurological complications of systemic disease: adults. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 49A.

Iannuzzi M. Sarcoidosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 95.

 

Updated: 8/28/2012

Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com