Diagnosing histoplasmosis can be complicated, depending on the area of the body affected. While testing is not usually necessary for mild cases of histoplasmosis, it can be crucial to help choose appropriate treatments in life-threatening cases.
Available tests for histoplasmosis have limitations. For example, it can take up to six weeks to get results from some tests. Your doctor may suggest a combination approach to search for evidence of the disease in samples of:
- Lung secretions
- Blood or urine
- Biopsied lung tissue
- Bone marrow
Researchers are working on developing better tools to diagnose histoplasmosis.
Treatment usually isn't necessary if you have a mild case of histoplasmosis. But if your symptoms are severe or if you have the chronic or disseminated forms of the disease, you'll likely need treatment with one or more antifungal drugs. Some of these medications come in pill form, but the strongest varieties are administered intravenously.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider. He or she might refer you to a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases. Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your infection, you may also see other doctors, such as a lung specialist (pulmonologist) or a heart specialist (cardiologist).
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any possible exposure to areas with numerous birds or bats.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For histoplasmosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- How could I have gotten this infection?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Will this infection get better on its own, or do I need treatment?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Can I get infected again?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you work outdoors?
- Have you spent an extended time in areas with large populations of birds?
- Have you spent any time in caves? Or other areas where bats might congregate?
Jan. 08, 2015
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Information for healthcare professionals about histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis/health-professionals.html. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Histoplasmosis: Protecting workers at risk. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2005-109. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Who gets histoplasmosis? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis/risk-prevention.html. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Mason RJ, et al. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- What is ARDS? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ards. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
- Wheat J, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary histoplasmosis. http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.