Aspergillosis

1 What is Aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is an infection by Aspergillus fungus that is found growing in decaying vegetation. The fungus is found both indoors and outdoors, and inhalation of the same may not cause any specific reaction in healthy people. 

People with a weak immune system, lung diseases, and asthma are more likely to develop infection when they inhale the spores of the fungus. Aspergillosis affects the respiratory system and the symptoms may vary. 

Severity of symptoms range from mild to severe. Aspergillosis may trigger an allergic response in some people, while others may develop mild to severe form of lung infection. 

Treatment involve close monitoring, antifungal medications and, in some cases, surgical repair.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of aspergillosis depend on the type of disease. Allergic reaction to aspergillus may result in cystic fibrosis or asthma. 

The reaction to fungus is referred to as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and is characterized by symptoms like fever, cough, and severe asthma. The cough may bring out blood or mucus. 

Chronic form of infection is known as simple aspergilloma. In this condition, mass of fungal fibers, known as fungal mass, form in the lungs. Patients with a history of conditions like emphysema, tuberculosis, or sarcoidosis may develop lung cavities. 

Fungal mass may remain asymptomatic initially, but as the condition progresses, it may worsen the symptoms of the underlying lung condition. Simple aspergilloma is characterized by coughing up of blood, wheezing, shortness of breath, weight loss, and fatigue

In severe form of aspergillosis, known as invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, the fungal infection may spread from the lungs to other organs like kidney, heart, brain, and skin. This is commonly seen in people who have a weak immune system.

Symptoms of invasive form depend on the organ affected by infection. Most common symptoms of the condition include: 

  • Fever and chills
  • Coughing up blood
  • Bleeding from lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Swelling of face
  • Skin rashes

Infection of sinus result in stuffy nose, inflammation of sinus, fever, pain in the face, and headache.   

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3 Causes

Aspergillosis is caused by the infection of aspergillus fungus. The fungus is found both indoors and outdoors in dead and decaying vegetation, trees, heating ducts, insulation, and even in some food. 

Those who have a healthy immune system may not be affected by inhalation of the fungal spores. People with a weakened immune system, due to immunosuppressant medications or diseases, fail to destroy the infectious agent. 

This allows the organism to take over lungs forming a mass in the air cavities. 

Weak immune system, low levels of white blood cells, and long-term steroid therapy increase the risk of aspergillosis. Other risk factors include conditions like lung cavities, asthma, and cystic fibrosis.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Symptoms of aspergillosis resemble that of other lung conditions like tuberculosis, making diagnosis difficult. Sputum test is a diagnostic test in which sputum sample is stained with dye to check for the presence of fungal fibers. 

The fungal specimen from the sputum is then cultured for identification and confirmation of diagnosis. Allergic form of aspergillosis is diagnosed using skin test. In this procedure, a small amount of fungal antigen is injected into the skin. 

Formation of reddish, bumps on the injected site indicate allergic reaction to aspergillus. Blood test reveals the presence of high levels of specific antibodies to the fungal antigen. 

Imaging techniques like X-ray and CT scan produce detailed visuals of the lungs, revealing fungal mass, or signs of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Biopsy of the lung tissue is also useful in confirmatory diagnosis of the condition.

5 Treatment

Monitoring, medications, and surgery are the common treatment methods for aspergillosis. Simple form of the condition may not require any specific treatment. 

Asymptomatic aspergilloma is closely observed using chest x-ray. Among the medications, corticosteroids are used to treat allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. 

It also helps to alleviate symptoms of asthma and cystic fibrosis, when present. Corticosteroids may be used in combination with antifungal medications for better effect. 

Antifungal medications like amphotericin B and voriconazole are the first line of treatment for moderate to severe form of aspergillosis. Fungal mass in the lungs may be removed by surgery. 

Embolization is an alternate to surgery. In this procedure, a small catheter is inserted into the artery and guided to the blood vessel that supplies the fungal mass in the lungs. 

Once in place, it injects a material that clogs the blood vessel. It is a temporary method to control aspergillosis.

6 Prevention

There is no standard way of prevention for aspergillosis. People with a high risk of the condition, should avoid places where the mold is abundant.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for Aspergillosis.

Garlic, olive leaf extract, and coconut oil are considered to be effective in controlling infection. They have antifungal properties that block the growth of the fungus in the body. 

Datura stramonium, duboisinum, solanum dulcamara, baptisia tinctora, china officinalis, and ferrum phosphoricum are recommended in homeopathy based on the specific symptom of the patient.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Aspergillosis.

Try to avoid repeated exposure to the fungus, especially if you have a risk factor for aspergillosis. Keep the premises clean off fungal growth, both indoors and outdoors.

Have a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise to improve the functioning of the immune system to prevent infections.

9 Risks and Complications

Bleeding and systemic infection are the serious complications associated with aspergillosis. Fungal infection may lead to severe bleeding from the lungs that is potentially fatal. 

Spread of the infection to other parts of the body is also life-threatening.

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