Histoplasmosis is an infection that usually affects the lungs. LungsCopyright © 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 to soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings.

  • Definition

    Histoplasmosis is an infection that usually affects the lungs.

    lungs and bronchioles
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    To look for signs of infection, your doctor may order:

    • 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.

  • 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

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of exporue 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 if 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

  • Treatment

    The immune system can often remove the fungus. People who have no symptoms or mild symptoms do not need treatment.

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

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