Serial changes in various markers of disease activity with corticosteroid therapy were assessed in 12 patients with active sarcoidosis. After six weeks of treatment with 40 mg daily of prednisone, all but one patient demonstrated symptomatic and radiographic improvement. For the entire patient group, there were corresponding improvements in forced vital capacity, from 59.2 +/- 5.5 to 70.5 +/- 5.3 percent of the predicted value (p less than 0.001, Student paired t test), serum angiotensin-converting enzyme levels, from 66.0 +/- 12.1 to 28.2 +/- 4.0 U/ml (p = 0.003), 67gallium lung scanning scores, from 3.6 +/- 0.2 to 0.8 +/- 0.3 (p less than 0.001), serum gamma globulin levels, from 2.40 +/- 0.2 to 1.5 +/- 0.1 g/dl (p less than 0.001), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, from 26.8 +/- 2.7 to 14.8 +/- 3.0 mm per hour (p less than 0.001). Changes in percent of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid lymphocytes were less impressive (from 28.7 +/- 4.9 to 21.2 +/- 5.1, p = 0.034), but the geometric mean number of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid-IgG-secreting cells decreased from 23,861 to 3,830 (p = 0.013). Serial evaluations in five patients treated with decreasing doses of alternate-day prednisone for an additional 10 1/2 months indicated that changes in 67gallium lung scanning scores corresponded most closely to the clinical course in five of five patients. Determination of serum angiotensin-converting enzyme levels also closely paralleled the clinical course in four of five patients, whereas the other parameters measured were more variable markers of clinical response. However, abnormalities of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid-IgG-secreting cells often persisted in the absence of clinically evident disease, and the percentages of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid lymphocytes were frequently normal in patients who responded subsequently to corticosteroids. Larger prospective studies are warranted to more extensively evaluate various measurements of disease activity, especially bronchoalveolar lavage fluid analysis, in sarcoidosis.