Healthy Living

What Are Possible Complications of Mononucleosis?

What are Possible Complications of Mononucleosis?

Key Takeaways

  • Though it is uncommon, ruptured spleen can sometimes be an initial sign of Mononucleosis (Mono).
  • The second most common mono complication is liver problems such as Hepatitis and Jaundice.
  • Complications regarding the nervous system can be sometimes observed and identified if mono causes problems of the spinal cord and brain.

Mononucleosis is an infectious disease which is transferred through saliva, earning it the popular nickname of the “Kissing disease”. Despite its name, Mono can also be transferred through a cough or sneeze. Additionally, If a glass, spoon etc. of someone with Mono is not cleaned properly, then the bacteria of the disease can be easily transmitted to others. But not to worry, despite being contagious, it is far easier to contract the common cold. But just in case, here are some common symptoms to look out for in the early stages of Mono.

If the person starts experiencing the above symptoms, it is recommended to see a doctor immediately. Mononucleosis is curable only if steps are taken at an early stage of the disease. Otherwise, this disease can cause many more complications, which can also prove to be fatal.

What are Possible Complications of Mononucleosis?

Although the majority of individuals suffering from Mono have a full recovery, patients do face the possibility of developing some uncommon complications. The complications may result from the progression of the disease itself or from the Mononucleosis virus that causes the disease. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common causative agent in cases of mononucleosis. Some complications are more common than others and in a few cases, the complications that arise can be more hazardous than the disease itself. The most common complications of mononucleosis include spleen enlargement and liver problems. Among the less common complications are anemia, rashes, problems with the nervous system, and heart inflammation.

Spleen Enlargement

This happens to be the main and most common complication, as it affects three-quarters of people with mono. The spleen is found at the top of the abdomen on the left side of the body. The spleen is a huge gland that assists in the filtering of human blood. Severe cases of mononucleosis can cause spleen enlargement or even rupture. Complications involving the spleen are usually accompanied by sharp and sudden pain experienced in its localized area. They can also be characterized by fainting, blurred vision, confusion, and light-headedness. Ruptured spleen in select cases can be the first noticeable sign of mono. If you suspect that your spleen may have ruptured, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Emergency surgery may be necessary to deal with an enlarged or ruptured spleen. 

Liver Complications

The second most common complication that results from mono are liver-related problems like hepatitis and jaundice. Hepatitis is a mild and less dangerous inflammation of the liver that can be characterized by pain. Jaundice can be seen when the whites of the patients' eyes and skin turns yellow. Both hepatitis and jaundice are mild in most cases, and usually no treatment is required to get rid of them.

Heart Inflammation

Although they are less common, heart complications can also result from mono. In these cases, the heart muscle becomes inflamed and gives rise to other cardiac problems. This can present as an irregular heart rhythm. An irregular heartbeat's occurrence is typically observable in the first three weeks after a patient contracts mono. Medical attention can be very helpful to patients experiencing cardiac issues, however if they are caused by mononucleosis they typically resolve themselves when the infection runs its course.

Nervous System Problems

Complications regarding the nervous system can be observed and identified when mono causes problems in spinal cord and brain areas. The EBV virus can also cause other infections and problems of the nervous system as well as being responsible for causing mononucleosis. The EBV infection can result in eye muscle, spinal cord, and brain swelling as well as swelling of the surrounding tissues. It can also cause paralysis of the body and facial muscles on one side of the body. Sudden and uncoordinated muscle movements, psychoses, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and sleeping disorders are other complications involving the EBV virus. Many of these neurological complications are severe in nature and mononucleosis patients that experience them should seek immediate medical attention.

Swollen Tonsils

Mono can cause tonsils to swell, resulting in breathing difficulties and even obstruction of the airway. Obstruction of the airway and subsequent difficulty breathing only result from tonsils that are extremely swollen. Treatment for this complication would typically be corticosteroid drugs that reduce the intensity of swelling. If this fails, tonsillectomy (the surgical removal of tonsils) may be performed. 

Anemia and Rashes

Anemia is characterized by a reduced number of red blood cells, which in turn decreases the quantity of hemoglobin in a person's blood. This condition usually disappears a few months after a patient's infection with mononucleosis, even without treatment. Rashes usually known as red spots may also develop if taking certain antibiotics for mono. The rash that results in this case should not be considered as an allergic reaction, because it results from reaction with the mononucleosis. In mono patients, platelets responsible for blood clotting mechanisms can be decreased to record low counts and white blood cells may be abnormally shaped.

Reye syndrome

Reye syndrome is a serious illness that cannot be solely attributed to mononucleosis, though it can be a complication that mono patients experience. Reye syndrome usually develops in individuals under 20 years of age who attempt to treat mono symptoms with aspirin. Aspirin should never be used in the treatment of mononucleosis to avoid the development of severe complications that can couple with abnormal cardiac behavior. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen medicines are good alternatives to relieve pain and fever resulting from mono.

Thrombocytopenia

Mononucleosis can lead to a change in the count of the platelets. The blood platelets that are necessary for the person body will drastically drop down and this may cause a big amount of clotting of blood. This will also result in a fluctuation in the blood pressure   and also result in weakness, because the patient’s blood will not be able to carry the necessary nutrients through blood.

Anemia

Due to the drop in the amount of the blood platelets, the patient’s blood cells and hemoglobin will drop down decreasing the level or iron-rich proteins.