The signs and symptoms of aspergillosis vary with the type of illness you develop:

Allergic reaction

Some people with asthma or cystic fibrosis have an allergic reaction to aspergillus mold. Signs and symptoms of this condition, known as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, include:

  • Fever
  • A cough that may bring up blood or plugs of mucus
  • Worsening asthma

Fungal mass

A growth of tangled fungus fibers (fungus ball) may develop if there are air spaces (cavities) in the lungs. This type of aspergillosis is called aspergilloma. Lung cavities may develop in people with pre-existing lung conditions, such as emphysema, tuberculosis or advanced sarcoidosis. Aspergilloma is a benign condition that may not initially produce symptoms, but over time it can cause:

  • A cough that often brings up blood (hemoptysis), sometimes large amounts
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue

Infection

The most severe form of aspergillosis, invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, occurs when the infection spreads rapidly from the lungs through your bloodstream to your brain, heart, kidneys or skin. This occurs only in people whose immune system is weakened, commonly from chemotherapy. Signs and symptoms depend on which organs are affected, but in general, invasive aspergillosis can cause:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough that brings up blood-streaked sputum (hemoptysis)
  • Severe bleeding from your lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest or joint pain
  • Nosebleed
  • Facial swelling on one side
  • Skin lesions

Other types of aspergillosis

In addition to your lungs, aspergillus can invade other areas of the body, such as your sinuses. In your sinuses, it can cause a stuffy nose, drainage (possibly bloody), inflammation, fever, facial pain and headache.

When to see a doctor

If you have asthma or cystic fibrosis, see your doctor whenever you notice a change in your symptoms. Although aspergillosis may not be the cause, it's important to have any problems evaluated. If you have a weakened immune system and develop an unexplained fever, shortness of breath or a cough that brings up blood, get immediate medical care. In the case of invasive aspergillosis, prompt treatment is so crucial that treatment is often started before the infection is diagnosed.

Apr. 29, 2011

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