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Histoplasmosis

Definition

Histoplasmosis is an infection that usually affects the lungs.

Lungs
lungs and bronchioles
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Histoplasmosis is caused by a specific fungus. People often become infected when they inhale the fungus. The fungus can become airborne in dust or debris during demolition projects. People can also come in contact with the fungus through contact with soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of exposure to histoplasmosis include:

  • Having a job that puts you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such as in an aviary
  • Being involved in activities that put you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such such as cave exploration
  • Keeping birds as pets
  • Living along river valleys
  • Living in Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, or Tennessee
  • Living in eastern Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, parts of the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or Africa
  • Having recently traveled to a location where histoplasmosis is common

Not everyone who comes in contact with the fungus will develop an infection. Medical conditions that weaken your immune system, like HIV , can increase your chance of infection.

Symptoms

Histoplasmosis does not generally cause symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Achy muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Feelings of discomfort or uneasiness
  • Spitting out blood
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Abdominal fullness from an enlarged liver and spleen
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Loss of vision

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your body fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Blood culture
  • Sputum culture
  • Skin testing
  • Urine antigen testing
  • Bone marrow tests

Pulmonary function tests and x-rays may be done to see how much your lungs have been affected.

Treatment

The immune system can often remove the fungus. People who do not have symptoms or those who have mild symptoms do not need treatment.

Antifungal medication may be needed if symptoms last for more than 1 month.

If you have a suppressed immune system, like HIV, you may need life-long antifungal medication. The medication will help to prevent a recurrence of histoplasmosis.

Prevention

If you might be exposed to bird or bat droppings, wear a face mask.

If you have a weakened immune system, completely avoid:

  • Any areas where you may find bird and bat droppings
  • Creating or working with surface dust from soil
  • Cleaning, remodeling, or demolishing old buildings
  • Cleaning chicken coops
  • Exploring caves

Revision Information

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    http://www.cdc.gov

  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

    http://www.niaid.nih.gov

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Public Health Agency of Canada

    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

  • Histoplasmosis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/histoplasmosis.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.

  • Histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis. Updated September 25, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.

  • Histoplasmosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 17, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.