Histoplasmosis is yet another fungal infection that primarily affects the lungs, although it occasionally infects other organs too. The fungus causing Histoplasmosis is called Histoplasma Capsulatum. The tricky feature of this infection is that it stays asymptomatic in the initial stages until it starts to spread into other organs or disseminating, by which time it takes very dangerous and potentially fatal proportions.
Let us get to the symptoms of Histoplasmosis to see what it is we should be wary of in case we are in the high risk group (discussed later in the post) to be able to contact a doctor:
• Cough or flu-like symptoms such as fever
• Ague / Chills
• Cough and Laboured breathing
• Excessive sweating
• Shortness of breath
• Headache and stiffness of the neck
• Skin lesions and rashes
• Mouth sores
• Skin nodules
• Fatigue and Malaise
• Weight loss and weakness
• Blood in cough sputum
Please note that any or a combination of these symptoms may be presented to the person depending on the type of Histoplasmosis they are afflicted with. Symptoms start to surface anytime between three days to three weeks from the date of inhalation of the fungal spores carried into the air from soil.
There are four types of Histoplasmosis cases that have been reported. Primary Pulmonary Histoplasmosis (affecting the lungs), Progressive Disseminated Hiptoplasmosis (spreading to infect other organs within the body from it’s initial point), Primary Cutaneous Histoplasmosis (affecting the skin) and the African Histoplasmosis (found in the continent of Africa only)
High risk groups involve:
• Persons with suppressed immune systems due to medication such as steroids or the presence of medical condition such as diabetes or AIDS.
• Males, infants under one year and seniors.
• Persons living in or working with soil in areas of Ohio and the Mississippi River Valley, Central and South Americas, Far East, France and Africa.
• Occupations such as construction site workers, gardernrs, farmers, cleaners, roofers (etc.)
• As per the Medical Disability Advisor (MD Guidlines), “Almost 500,000 new cases of Histoplasmosis occur each year in the U.S.; about 2 percent to 5 percent of individuals with AIDS have the progressive disseminated form of histoplasmosis ('Histoplasmosis'). In these cases, toxins in the bloodstream (sepsis) may cause widespread tissue damage that can lead to failure of organs such as the kidney and liver. Although symptoms of the disease only occur in 5 percent of the population (Chang), studies reveal that almost all residents living in areas where the fungus is abundant test positive for the presence of Histoplasmosis infection.”
Tests to diagnose Histoplasmosis are similar to the diagnostic protocol followed for Coccidioimycosis and Mucormycosis and include:
1. Conducting an antigen test on blood, urine, cerebro-spinal fluid (etc) using the ELISA or PCR methods.
2. Samples taken from cough, blood and tissues of other infected parts such as lymph nodes, mouth ulcers etc are also used to check presence of antigens through cultures.
3. X-rays and CAT scan imaging will also exhibit lung condition.
4. Techniques of differential diagnosis are pursued to rule out other similar conditions caused by fungus or even flu. Diseases such as Blastomycosis, various types of pneumonia, lung cancer, lymphoma, aspergillosis, tuberculosis (etc) are ruled out.
5. For rare types of Histoplasmosis, infectious disease specialists are required to arrive at the correct diagnosis.
6. Bronchoscopy is done only if the results of the fungal culture tests are inconclusive. Here the trachea is examined along with the bronchial passage with an endoscope and a biopsy of a tissue is taken with the endoscope.
7. A Complete Blood Count with differentials is recommended to be carried out.
8. Tests to indicate alkaline phosphatise concentration as well as lactase dehydrogenase will be conducted.
9. Titer or concentration tests for antibodies as well as immunoprecipitating tests are conducted to see which antibodies are involved with which antigens and their binding is studied.
10. A Pulmonary Function Test could also be ordered to evaluate the degree of obstruction, defect (etc.)
In the next post, we will go through various treatment options for Histoplasmosis and the prognosis following treatment.
Mamta Singh is a published author (Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips from a Sufferer. Publisher: Rupa & Co.), seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. Mamta runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business, and is a certified Holistic Healing Therapist from the SAC U.K. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation.
Link: http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com and http://www.footstrike.wordpress.com
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