I Wonder Which Came First: Stress or Sarcoidosis?

I Wonder Which Came First: Stress or Sarcoidosis?

I eat well, get adequate sleep, and lead a balanced lifestyle overall. My routine includes trying to keep my life as stress-free as possible. But despite my best intentions, an event invariably occurs to disrupt my attempts to maintain calmness.

Sometimes it’s an unexpected household issue or a sick dog that catches me off guard. Other days it’s a vehicle that won’t start or a malfunctioning computer. When more than one of these occurs in a day, I’m left with a feeling of complete discombobulation.

Regardless of the specific situation, the stresses of life don’t sit well with sarcoidosis. When I’m put under pressure, I become agitated and irritable in addition to not feeling my best.

I know when stress is getting the best of me — it feels as if I’ve hit a brick wall. Feeling depleted, I would like nothing more than to lie in bed and rest. Sometimes I do just that. But I’d prefer it if it didn’t get to that point.

I often wonder if the stress came before the sarcoidosis, or if it was the other way around. I’ve heard that stress can increase symptoms and the ability to deal with the disease.

I discovered this study recently, which examined the influence of negative life events in patients with sarcoidosis. The researchers from the Institute of Pulmonary Diseases in Belgrade, Serbia, concluded that “psychological stressors may influence the development and expression of sarcoidosis.”

Following diagnosis, it may not matter whether the stress came first or it accompanied the disease — but it often feels like a vicious cycle.

Living with a chronic illness is already incredibly stressful and affects quality of life in many ways: financially, physically, and emotionally. However, taking steps to relieve one of those factors — trying to work, for instance — can be exhausting and lead to an exacerbation of symptoms, causing another type of stress. And the cycle continues.

The obvious advice would be to minimize the stressors in your life. However, as we know, reducing the sources of stress is not straightforward or simple.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises. Studies show deep breathing can assist in helping the body cope with stress.
  • Spending time in nature can be helpful.
  • Choose relationships wisely.
  • Watch your caffeine intake. Try drinking water instead.

Everyone claims to be stressed these days. None of us can entirely eliminate the stress in our lives. However, those of us with chronic health conditions may be particularly sensitive to stress. We owe it to ourselves to protect against these adverse effects as much as possible.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


  1. Gwendolyn Brown says:

    Thank you Kate,
    I was told there’s no funding for this diease,if we continue to share our experiences we may find a cure ourselves.

    • Jeanne B. says:

      Hi Gwen,

      There is some funding for sarcoidosis research through the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research. There is also other research being done at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Stanford University, Vanderbilt University and I believe others.

      I know the UCSF funding is an NIH grant. I was a participant in the research project.

  2. Richard says:

    Thank you Kate. As with anxiety, learning to ‘chillax’ and ‘float’ a bit (dissociation?) when stressful events appear to be happening could be helpful. being hyper-vigilant and full of care all the time is tiring for the whole body and no good for the immune system. A good sense of humour and lots of laughter might help too. Just believing ‘you can handle anything’ and being fearless there is no need to worry. We Will get there! Best.

  3. Chris Stuart says:

    Sleep and mindfulness have help me manage this illness. I highly recommend the Chimp Paradox, it reduced my stress over night.

  4. Jeanne B says:

    Hi Kate,

    I know for me the stress came first. Back in 1991-92, a whole year of extreme job stress. It was not until 2003 that I experienced the symptoms of Sarcoidosis.

    With my doctors help I have learned that the extreme stress I experienced had overtaxed my adrenal glands and that they were now functioning at only about 20%. This damage to my immune system is what allowed the environmental factors to trigger sarcoidosis in my body that was predisposed to the disease.

    7 years of healing my immune system has helped me bring the symptoms of sarcoidosis under control. I am not cured and I don’t believe we can find a ‘cure’, short of restructuring our genetic code. I do believe that using a mild anti-inflammatory, reducing the pathogen load in our bodies, and doing all we can to heal our immune system (instead of suppressing it) can help us to live “normal” lives again. Lives free from fatigue, pain and depression.

    You are right we can’t always eliminate stress, but we can do all you said to try to cope with it in healthier ways.

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