Definition

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that often causes a respiratory illness.

Causes

Histoplasmosis is caused by infection with a fungus. Humans become infected by exposure to bird and bat droppings.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for histoplasmosis include:

  • Having a job that puts you in contact with bird or bat droppings (such as an aviary)
  • Being involved in activities that put you in contact with bird or bat droppings (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, southeast Asia, or Africa
  • Having recently traveled to a location where histoplasmosis is common
  • Having a medical condition that weakens your immune system (especially HIV )

Symptoms

Many patients may not have any symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Achy muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Malaise (a feeling of discomfort or uneasiness)
  • Hemoptysis (spitting out blood)
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • Skin rashes
  • Loss of vision

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include:

Bone Biopsy

Bone biopsy
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Treatment

Antifungal Medications

These may include amphotericin B or itraconazole. Patients with AIDS may require treatment with an antifungal medication for the rest of their lives to prevent further attacks of histoplasmosis.

Prevention

If you might be exposed to bird or bat droppings, wear a face mask. If you have a weakened immune system, completely avoid bird and bat droppings.