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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Late Bernie Mac Died of Sarcoidosis -- What is it and Why is it More Common Among African Americans?

Bernie Mac Died of Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a disease involving abnormal collections of inflammatory cells that can form as nodules in multiple organs. They are most often located in the lungs or its lymph nodes, but any organ can be affected. In some cases, sarcoidosis can become life-threatening.

Sarcoidosis did become life-threatening for comedian Bernie Mac. Although his sarcoidosis was in remission, it left his immune system compromised and he died from complications from pneumonia in 2008.

Who can get sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, but it is more common and more serious among African Americans, especially between the ages of 20-29. It is also more common among women, with the female-to-male ratio being roughly 2:1. Sarcoidosis tends to be more aggressive among women.

What are its symptoms?

Sarcoidosis appears as red bumps or a red scaly rash on the skin. It can affect the eyes and can cause retinal inflammation, which may result in vision loss or blindness. It can affect the joints, bones and muscles and cause swelling and soreness. But the most common organ affected is the lungs. About 90 percent of the cases of sarcoidosis affect the lungs. This can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, dry and hacking cough and even coughing up blood.

What causes sarcoidosis?

The cause of sarcoidosis is not known. About 20 percent of African Americans with sarcoidosis have a family member with the condition. It is suspected that sarcoidosis is caused through alteration to the immune response after exposure to an environmental, occupational, or infectious agent, but further studies are needed.


Most patients can be successfully treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Even severe conditions are treatable. About half of the cases can be resolved in 12-36 months; most all cases can be resolved within five years. However, some cases can progress to pulmonary fibrosis and death.

For more details about sarcoidosis, visit the NIH web site at:
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