Histoplasmosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

What Are the Symptoms of Histoplasmosis?

In most cases, histoplasmosis causes mild flu-like symptoms that appear between 3 and 17 days after exposure to the fungus. These symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough and chest discomfort. In these milder forms, most symptoms go away on their own in a few weeks.

If the exposure is heavy, or the patient more vulnerable, symptoms may progress and become more severe. People with a cough will begin to bring up thick, yellow sputum or blood. They will experience shortness of breath and could eventually show signs of respiratory failure.

If the histoplasmosis spreads throughout the body, patients can suffer from complications. These include enlarged spleen and liver, gastrointestinal bleeding, lip and mouth ulcerations and decreased white and red blood cells leading to bone marrow failure.

When to See Your Doctor

If you live in the Midwestern United States and have engaged in activities that expose you to bird or bat droppings, or have a weakened immune system, contact your doctor if you develop symptoms of a respiratory infection.

How Histoplasmosis Is Diagnosed

To get a correct diagnosis, your doctor will need a detailed medical history, including any potential exposure. They will then perform a physical exam, analyze your symptoms and order blood or urine tests. Imaging tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan may be needed to get a better picture of your lungs.

When disseminated histoplasmosis is suspected, a culture or a lung biopsy are the most effective and widely used methods to secure an accurate and timely diagnosis. In these instances, a rapid diagnosis is essential to ensuring early treatment and a good outcome.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 5, 2020

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