Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection. It usually affects the lungs. It ranges from mild to severe. People with severe or long lasting symptoms need treatment.
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Histoplasmosis is caused by a certain fungus. It is found in soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings. The fungus gets into the air when the soil gets disturbed. People can get infected when they inhale the fungus.
Histoplasmosis is more common in people who are:
- Are older
- Have certain health problems
- Have a weak immune system
Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Exposure to soil with bird or bat droppings
- Living in or traveling to places where the fungus is more common, such as:
- Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois
- Indiana, Missouri, or Tennessee
- Southeast Asia, Africa, or Eastern Canada
- Mexico, Central or South America
Histoplasmosis often does not cause symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may be:
- Fever, sweats, or chills
- Feeling weak or tired
- Achy muscles and joints
- Lack of hunger
- Weight loss
- Problems breathing
- Chest pain
- Mouth sores
- Belly pain
- Changes in behavior
- Vision problems
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests will be done to look for signs of the fungus. These may be:
- Urine tests
- Blood tests and culture
- Skin testing
- Sputum culture
- A lumbar puncture to test cerebrospinal fluid
Images may be taken. This can be done with:
Treatment may not be needed for people who have mild or no symptoms.
In others, antifungal medicine may be given to treat the infection. It may need to be taken for up to a month. It may be used for life in people who have weakened immune systems.
Surgery may be used if growths develop in the lungs.
The risk of histoplasmosis may be lowered by:
- Using protective masks when near soil, bird, and bat droppings
- Avoiding areas with bird and bat droppings
- Azar MM, Hage CA. Clinical perspectives in the diagnosis and management of histoplasmosis. Clin Chest Med. 2017;38(3):403-415.
- Histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis.
- Histoplasmosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/histoplasmosis.
- What is histoplasmosis? American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/1215/p2255.html.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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