Aspergillosis is an infection,
allergic reaction, or fungal growth caused by the Aspergillus fungus.
The fungus usually grows on decaying vegetation and dead leaves. Exposure to
the fungus doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get aspergillosis. Almost
everyone encounters the fungus on a daily basis and never contracts the
illness. It’s more likely to infect people with a weak immune system or a lung
Different types of aspergillosis
affect the body in different ways. Certain conditions and medications increase
your risk for developing each type. Different types of aspergillosis have
Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)
In allergic bronchopulmonary
aspergillosis (ABPA), the fungus causes allergic reactions such as coughing and
wheezing. You’re more susceptible to this type of aspergillosis if you have
lung problems such as cystic fibrosis or asthma. ABPA also causes shortness of
breath, and general feelings of being unwell.
You’re more likely to have an invasive
type of aspergillosis if your immune system is weakened by chemotherapy and
conditions such as leukemia, cancer, and AIDS.
A weakened immune system makes it more
difficult to fight off infections. This type of aspergillosis invades your lung
tissues and can spread to your kidneys or brain. If invasive aspergillosis goes
untreated, it can cause infectious pneumonia. Infectious pneumonia can be
life-threatening in people with compromised immune systems.
Invasive aspergillosis often occurs in
people who already have other medical conditions, so it can be hard to separate
the symptoms of invasive aspergillosis from those of the other conditions.
Known symptoms of invasive aspergillosis include:
- a cough (sometimes with blood)
- pain in the chest
- shortness of breath
Also, an infection of the lungs can
spread throughout the body, causing new symptoms.
If you have tuberculosis or another
lung disease, exposure to the fungus can cause you to develop a fungus growth.
Also called a fungus ball, this type of growth usually consists of fungus,
clots, and white blood cells. The growth doesn’t typically spread to other
areas of your body. However, the ball can become larger and damage your lung
With an aspergilloma, you may have a
cough, with or without blood, and shortness of breath.
Other symptoms of different types of
aspergillosis can include:
- pain in your chest and bones
- vision difficulties
- blood in your urine
- less urine
- difficulty breathing
- skin sores
- bloody phlegm
The illness is the result of a
combination of exposure to the Aspergillus fungus and a weak immune
system. The following may carry the fungus:
- compost piles
- stored grain
- marijuana leaves
- decaying vegetation
Your doctor will speak to you about
your symptoms and review your medical history for conditions that make you open
to the illness. Testing for invasive aspergillosis usually involves doing a
biopsy to sample and test lung tissue. Your doctor may also insert an
instrument through your mouth or nose to reach your lungs and collect a small
amount of fluid for fungal testing.
Other tests may include:
- blood tests to check for antibodies, allergens,
and fungus molecules
- a chest X-ray
- a CT scan of your lungs
- a sputum stain and culture to examine your
Antifungal medication treats all types
of the illness. Oral or intravenous drugs such as voriconazole can treat the
invasive type of aspergillosis. If you have allergic aspergillosis, you may
receive medication that suppresses your immune system, such as prednisone,
along with antifungal drugs.
If the fungus causes infection of your
heart valves, surgery is usually necessary to remove the infected areas. After
the surgery, you’ll get extensive antifungal treatment.
Keep in mind that aspergillosis isn’t
Allergic aspergillosis typically heals
with treatment. You may get it again if you’re repeatedly exposed to the
fungus. Recovering from invasive aspergillosis depends on your overall health
and the strength of your immune system.
Aspergilloma often requires no
For all types of aspergillosis, a lack
of response to medication is a critical issue and can be fatal.
The risks include:
- airway blockage
- respiratory failure
- kidney damage
- bleeding in the lungs