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 in air spaces (cavities) in the lung as part of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis. This type of aspergillosis is called simple 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 produce symptoms or may produce a mild cough only, but over time, the underlying condition can worsen and possibly cause:

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

Infection

Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis — the most severe form — occurs when the infection spreads rapidly from the lungs to your brain, heart, kidneys or skin. This occurs only in people whose immune system is weakened, commonly from chemotherapy. Untreated, this form of aspergilla disease is usually fatal.

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
  • Headaches or eye symptoms
  • Nosebleed
  • Facial swelling on one side
  • Skin lesions

Other types of aspergillosis

Aspergillus can invade areas of the body other than your lungs, such as your sinuses. In your sinuses, it can cause a stuffy nose, drainage that's 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 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 crucial, and treatment is sometimes started before the infection is diagnosed.

Aug. 05, 2014

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