Aspergillosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

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Aspergillosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

This is an infection which is caused by a type of mold. Those illnesses which are resulting from the aspergillosis infection usually affect the respiratory system but their signs and severity vary greatly. Aspergillus is a mold which triggers the illnesses. This mold is everywhere – indoors and outdoors. It is known that the most strains of this mold are harmless but there are some cases when it can cause serious illnesses in people who have asthma [1], underlying lung disease or weakened immune system when they inhale their spores. There are some cases when spores can trigger an allergic reaction. Other people can develop mild to serious lung infections. Invasive aspergillosis is the most serious form of aspergillosis and it is happening when the infection spreads to the blood vessels and beyond. It depends on the type of aspergillosis for the treatment but it can involve antifungal medications and observation or in rare cases people need surgery.

Aspergillosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Symptoms: Here are the signs and symptoms of aspergillosis which vary depending of the illness that you develop:

  1. Allergic reaction: There are some people who suffer from cystic fibrosis or asthma and who have an allergic reaction to the aspergillus mold. This condition is also known as bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Here are signs and symptoms of this condition:
  • Worsening asthma
  • A cough that may bring up plugs of mucus or blood or plugs
  • Fever
  1. Fungal mass: The growth of tangled fungus fibers (that is known as fungus ball) can develop in air spaces (known as cavities) in the lung as part of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis. The name which is used for this type of aspergillosis is simple aspergilloma. It is known that lung cavities can develop in people who have pre – existing lung conditions, such as advanced sarcoidosis, tuberculosis and emphysema. You should know that aspergilloma is a benign condition. It may not produce symptoms or it can produce mild cough only but as the time passes, the underlying condition can worsen and it can lead to [2]:
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • A cough which in many cases can bring up blood (hemoptysis), sometimes large amounts
  1. Infection: The most severe form of aspergillosis is invasive pulmonary aspergillosis [3,4]. It is happening when the infection spreads rapidly from the lungs to the brain, skin, kidneys or heart. It is happening only in people who have weak immune system and this is commonly caused by chemotherapy. If this form of aspergilla is untreated, then it can be fatal. It is known that the signs and symptoms of this type of aspergillosis depend on which organs are affected but in general, the invasive aspergillosis can cause:
  • Skin lesions
  • Facial swelling on one side
  • Nosebleed
  • Headaches or eye symptoms
  • Chest or joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe bleeding from your lungs
  • Cough that can lead to blood – streaked sputum (hemoptysis)
  • Fever and chills
  1. Other types of aspergillosis: There are some cases when aspergillus can invade areas of the body which are different than lungs, such as sinuses. When your sinuses are affected, then it can cause headache, facial pain, fever, inflammation, drainage that is possibly bloody and a stuffy nose.

Aspergillosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Aspergillosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Causes: The aspergillus mold is unavoidable because it is found indoors and outdoors. The spores, which are reproductive parts of mold, live indoors and they thrive in insulation, air conditioning and heating ducts and some spices and food. When they are outdoors, then they are found in decaying leaves and compost and on grain crops, trees and plants. Those people who have a healthy immune system and who are exposed to aspergillus on daily basis then it is not a real problem. When the mold spores are inhaled, then the immune system cells surround and destroy them. It is known that those people who have a weakened immune system that is caused from illness or immunosuppressant medications have less infection – fighting cells. This will allow aspergillus to take hold which is invading the lungs and this in the most serious cases other parts of the body. The aspergillosis is not contagious from person to person.

Risk factors: Here are some factors which can increase your risk of aspergillosis [5,6]:

  • Long – term corticosteroid therapy
  • Asthma or cystic fibrosis
  • Lung cavities
  • Low white blood cell level
  • Weakened immune system

References:

[1] Overton NLD, Denning DW, Bowyer P, Simpson A. Genetic susceptibility to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in asthma: a genetic association study. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2016;12.

[2] Denning DW, Cadranel J, Beigelman-Aubry C, et al. Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis: rationale and clinical guidelines for diagnosis and management. European Respiratory Journal. 2016;47:45-68.

[3] Reichenberger F, Habicht JM, Gratwohl A, Tamm M. Diagnosis and treatment of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in neutropenic patients. European Respiratory Journal. 2002;19:743-55.

[4] Bulpa P, Dive A, Sibille Y. Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. European Respiratory Journal. 2007;30:782-800.

[5] Kaya S, Gençalioğlu E, Sönmez M, Köksal I. The importance of risk factors for the prediction of patients with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira. 2017;63(9).

[6] Bassiri-Jahromi S. A retrospective study of the risk factors for invasive aspergillosis in Iran. Virology & Mycology. 2013;2(1).

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