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, fatigue, cough and chest discomfort. In these milder forms, most symptoms go away on their own in a few weeks or within a month.
  • If the exposure is significant, or you are at higher risk, symptoms may progress and become more severe. You most likely will develop a cough and begin to bring up thick, yellow sputum or blood. You may experience shortness of breath and could eventually show signs of respiratory failure.
  • If histoplasmosis spreads throughout the body, for example to the brain and spinal cord, you 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 Healthcare Provider

If you live in the eastern or central part of the United States, have traveled to other areas where this fungal disease is more frequently found, have engaged in activities that expose you to bird or bat droppings, or have a weakened immune system, these are important details that your healthcare provider should know if treating you for a respiratory infection.

If you have a weakened immune system, it is even more important to keep in close contact with your healthcare provider and seek help earlier than later if you experience any symptoms.

How Histoplasmosis Is Diagnosed

  • •Your healthcare provider will want adetailed medical history, including any potential exposure and travel history. They will then complete a physical exam, analyze your symptoms and order blood or urine tests which are the most common way to test for histoplasmosis. Imaging tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan may be needed to get a better picture of your lungs.
  • When your healthcare provider suspects the infections has spread from your lungs to other parts of the body (disseminated histoplasmosis), a culture or a lung biopsy are the most effective and widely used methods to secure an accurate and timely diagnosis.

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

Page last updated: November 20, 2023

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