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Alternative Names Return to topChronic cavitary histoplasmosis
Definition Return to top
Chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis is a long-term respiratory infection caused by breathing the spores of the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum.
Causes Return to top
Histoplasma capsulatum is a fungus found in the soil of the central and eastern United States (especially Mississippi and Ohio river valleys), eastern Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
The infection occurs when a person breathes in the reproducing parts of the fungus, called spores. Those who have a healthy immune system usually do not have symptoms, or only mild ones.
This "acute" infection does not last, but can leave a person with small scars (granulomas). These scars are sometimes difficult to distinguish from growths in the lung.
However, the infection can cause severe illness right away, or redevelop years after the first exposure, if a person's immune system is weakened by:
Risk factors for chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Tests that may be used to diagnose chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis include:
Treatment Return to top
The doctor will prescribe antifungal medications to control the infection within the lung.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The infection usually goes away with antifungal medication, but scarring inside the lung often remains. Histoplasmosis is unusual enough that if you develop it, your health care provider should check to find out whether another disease is weakening your immune system.
Often, those who have had chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis must follow up with their doctor, who will check for signs of relapse.
In rare cases, a pulmonary histoplasmosis infection can spread through the blood to other organs. This is called disseminated histoplasmosis. People who have a suppressed immune system and very young children are more likely to develop this condition. If this occurs, the prognosis is less favorable.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis.
Call your health care provider if your symptoms continue despite treatment, or if you have breathing difficulty or symptoms of disseminated histoplasmosis.
Prevention Return to top
Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are in a weakened state from another medical condition, or from immune-suppressing medications.
References Return to topGoldman L, Ausiello D. Goldman: Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007. Update Date: 11/12/2007 Updated by: Andrew Schriber, M.D., F.C.C.P., Specialist in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly, New Jersey. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.