Histoplasmosis is an infection that usually affects the lungs.
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.
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.
Histoplasmosis does not generally cause symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:
- Achy muscles
- Joint pain
- Feelings of discomfort or uneasiness
- Spitting out blood
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal fullness from an enlarged liver and spleen
- Skin rashes
- Swollen lymph glands
- Loss of vision
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:
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.
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
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Manitoba Health, Communicable Disease Control Unit
Public Health Agency of Canada
Histoplasmosis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/histoplasmosis.html. Updated January 2010. Accessed September 19, 2013.
Histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/histoplasmosis. Updated May 6, 2013. Accessed September 19, 2013.
Histoplasmosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated May 21, 2013. Accessed September 19, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.