What Are Skin Lesions of
is an infection known more commonly as “valley fever.” It’s caused by a fungus
called Coccidioides immitis or
Coccidioides posadasii. You can get the infection by
inhaling the spores of the fungus. Lesions are one of many possible symptoms of
infection by Coccidioides fungi.
infection by Coccidioides immitis begins
in the lungs, but it can travel to other parts of your body. When the fungus
affects your skin, it causes rashes and lesions. Skin lesions are a sign that
the fungal infection has become widespread (or disseminated) in your body.
people will recover from the infection with no treatment as the majority of
people infected with valley fever have minimal symptoms. A minority of people will
develop very severe and life-threatening infections. Coccidioidomycosis is most
commonly contracted in desert regions in the southwestern United States, and in
Central and South America. The name valley fever comes from the fact that this
ailment was first uncovered in the San Joaquin Valley of northern California.
The Stages and Symptoms of
Valley Fever-Related Skin Lesions
you contract valley fever, you may experience lesions or rashes as a symptom.
There are two stages of the disease. You may experience only the first stage
and recover before reaching the more serious second stage. However, in a
majority of people, minimal or no symptoms are seen.
infection may cause mild or severe symptoms, similar to those of the flu. These
- joint pain
- muscle ache
the initial infection, the fungus may infect your lungs and you may experience
skin lesions. These can include erythema
nodosum or erythema
multiforme. These lesions often look like strange bruises. These types
of skin rashes are usually not serious and they often go away when the valley
fever is treated.
rashes that appear during primary infection are most likely caused by your
immune system reacting to the fungal infection. They are not caused by the
the infection isn’t treated and is allowed to spread, the disease has become
disseminated, the second stage of the infection. In this stage of valley fever,
the infection has spread from your lungs to other parts of your body, including
of the infection is very serious. The infection may spread to your bones,
brain, and cause further lung and skin manifestations. The lesions that you may
experience during this second stage of infection are much more severe. You may
experience any of the following lesion types:
- papule: a raised spot on
your skin that is solid and less than a centimeter across
- nodule: the same as a
papule, but larger than a centimeter in width
- pustule: a pus-filled
lesion that is inflamed and small in size
- abscess: a larger
lesions will contain the fungus. They are evidence of a widespread infection.
Risk Factors for Valley
Fever-Related Skin Lesions
Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides
posadasii are commonly found in certain regions of California, New Mexico,
Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas. They are also known to be found in Northern
Mexico and certain parts of Central and South America. Valley fever is spread
by inhalation of fungal spores when it is kicked up during farming or
construction, for example.
healthy people who become infected will not experience any symptoms. Some may
have mild symptoms that clear up before the infection becomes widespread.
you get infected, the disease is much more likely to progress to the
disseminated stage if your immune system is compromised, such as with HIV or
cancer. You should talk to a doctor as soon as possible if you have an impaired
immune system and think you have been infected with valley fever. According to
the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are
at risk of developing a severe case of valley fever include:
- people with
- pregnant women
- anyone who has
had an organ transplant
- people with
Diagnosing Valley Fever
the symptoms of valley fever can be so varied from person to person, your
doctor may not be able to diagnose it on symptoms alone. To pinpoint the
infection, you must have a test that identifies the Coccidioides
immitis or Coccidioides
posadasii fungus in your body.
blood test can detect antibodies specific to the fungus. Your doctor may also
want to take a sample of your sputum, which is the thick fluid secreted in your
airways if you get infected. The fungus can be seen in the sample.
Treatments for Skin Lesions
Connected to Valley Fever
medications are used to treat the skin lesions associated with
the primary stage of infection, the lesions may clear up without any treatment.
If treatment is needed with antifungal medications, close follow-up is
recommended every couple of months.
the dissemination phase, treatment is necessary. Antifungal medication can be
given topically (applied to the skin), intravenously (injected), or in pill
form. If you have a suppressed or weakened immune system, you may need
long-term treatment. You may also need antibiotics to treat any infections in
the broken skin of the lesions.
Outlook for Valley
Fever-Related Skin Lesions
outlook for the lesions associated with valley fever depends upon the stage of
infection and the state of your immune system. If you have a primary infection
and are healthy, the outlook is excellent. Symptoms will usually disappear
within two to six weeks. If you have a compromised immune system or a
disseminated infection, recovery can take up to a year and is less certain. In
rare cases, valley fever can be fatal.
How to Prevent Valley Fever
you become infected with valley fever by breathing in the spores of the fungus,
it’s a difficult disease to prevent. Those who are at greater risk of having a
more severe case of valley fever should avoid living in areas where valley
fever is more prevalent. The CDC recommends
taking the following steps to help prevent valley fever:
- avoid dusty areas
like construction sites
- avoid activities
that can kick up a lot of dirt or dust, such as gardening
- stay inside
during dust storms
- wear a respirator
if your area is particularly dusty
- use a HEPA air
purifier in your home
- clean any cuts or
scrapes well and keep them bandaged to prevent dirt or dust from causing a skin
that the majority of people infected with valley fever experience little or no
symptoms. Taking these steps is most helpful for those who have impaired immune
systems or at greater risk of developing a more severe case. Talk to your
doctor if you live in or will be visiting a region that has a higher risk of
valley fever and have any concerns.