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Learn the Risks During Sarcoidosis Awareness Month

April 13, 2021 | Michael Barasch

Anyone who was in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 or in the months that followed has a higher risk of 68 different types of cancer and many forms of respiratory disease, including sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis is a disease characterized by the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells (known as “granulomas”) in any part of your body — most commonly the lungs and lymph nodes.

The symptoms of sarcoidosis depend on which organs are affected. Common general symptoms include fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, unintended weight loss, and pain and swelling in joints, such as the ankles.

Specific symptoms could include:

  • In the lungs: persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pain;
  • On skin: a rash of red or reddish-purple bumps, usually located on the shins or ankles, sores or lesions on the nose, cheeks, and ears, areas of skin that are darker or lighter in color; and growths under the skin (nodules);
  • In the eyes: blurred vision, eye pain, burning, itching, or dry eyes, severe redness, and sensitivity to light; 
  • In the heart: chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, fatigue, irregular heartbeats, heart palpitations, and swelling caused by excess fluid.

The risk factors for sarcoidosis include age between 20 and 60 years old, African or Northern European ancestry, family history, and exposure to Ground Zero toxins after 9/11.

Many cases of sarcoidosis disappear on their own. But for severe symptoms, your primary care provider might prescribe treatments such as corticosteroids, medications that suppress the immune system, hydroxychloroquine, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors.

If you are diagnosed with sarcoidosis or any of the 68 cancers or respiratory diseases impacting the 9/11 community, please contact us for resources on accessing free health care and compensation. 

Visit or call 212-385-8000 today.

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