Are you suffering from shortness of breath, skin rashes, fever and muscular pain? All these are signs of Blastomycosis. Read on to know what is Blastomycosis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Blastomycosis is a rare fungal infection that is also known as Gilchrist’s Disease or North American Blastomycosis. It develops in people who inhale a type of fungus found in soil and wood, known as Blastomyces Dermatitidis.
Blastomycosis has been listed as a ‘rare’ condition by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This indicates it affects less than 200,000 people in the US.
Blastomycosis affects different parts of the body. While the infection mainly affects and originates in the lungs, it can spread to other areas of the body and affect them as well. In Blastomycosis lungs are the first site of infection and the sufferers usually feel like they are having a case of bad cold.
This can later develop into pneumonia and also give rise to Blastomycosis skin lesions, Blastomycosis bone lesions and Blastomycosis genital lesions in advanced stages. Left untreated, the lesions can cause damage to kidneys, bladder and the bones.
Who Gets Blastomycosis?
It affects farmers, hunters, campers and those working in woods and forests. People of any sex can suffer from this condition. However, men are generally found to be affected more by Blastomycosis than women. People in the age group 30-70 are mainly affected by it. The average age for getting this disease is 45 years.
Is Blastomycosis Contagious?
Blastomycosis is not a contagious disease and it is generally not transmitted from one person to other. The likelihood of Blastomycosis transmission is rare.
Is Blastomycosis Contagious From Dogs To Humans?
Blastomycosis in dogs cannot be transmitted to humans though it is often thought otherwise. Both owners and their dogs are often seen to suffer from the syndrome at the same time. This usually happens when humans and dogs happen to inhale the same fungus from the same source.
Blastomycosis in Dogs
In case of Blastomycosis dogs are seen to suffer from severe skin sores. These have a round crust and ooze pus from time to time. With passing days, a suffering dog gets weaker. It walks weakly, has poor appetite and suffers from drowsiness. If not treated in time, they can die. With proper diagnosis and treatment however, around 85% of dogs survive.
The standard medicine used for Blastomycosis cure in dogs is Amphotericin B. Once treatment begins, dogs show an improvement in 3-5 days.
How Is Blastomycosis Transmitted?
As aforementioned, one is not seen to contract Blastomycosis from other people. Blastomycosis in people is not found to be transmitted. One can get this disease only from inhalation of Blastomycosis fungus from soil and woods.
What Causes Blastomycosis?
As aforesaid, the condition results from inhalation of fungi of genus Blastomyces Dermatitidis. Moist soil contains decomposed organic debris filled with fungus. Breathing in this fungus usually leads to Blastomycosis. Fungus is the main Blastomycosis causative agent.
Breathing in micronidia into the lungs from the mold form of B. Dermatitidis can also result in a Blastomycosis infection. When breathed in, the spores of B. Dermatitidis can get in the lungs and give rise to a localized swelling. It is known as Primary Pulmonary Blastomycosis.
The symptoms of Blastomycosis in humans are varied. In the early stages, the infection leads to problems like fever, dry cough, fatigue, heavy perspiration and a general ill feeling.
The disease can turn serious and give rise to more severe symptoms. In the later stages, Blastomycosis causes
- Brown or bloody sputum coming out with cough,
- High fever with body temperatures around 104 degrees or more,
- Unwanted weight loss,
- Stiffness and pain in muscles and joints,
- Loss of appetite,
- Chest pain,
- Red, gray or violet skin rashes,
- Shortness of breath
Patients can also suffer from a general feeling of illness, lethargy and skin abscesses. In a few cases, affected people have also been found to pass blood along with urine.
The diagnosis for Blastomycosis consists of biopsy of skin. In some cases of Blastomycosis biopsy of tissues is also necessary. In some cases, a sample of the sputum is taken and analysed under the microscope to check for abnormalities. In many patients of Blastomycosis X ray of chest is also done to carry out a proper diagnosis. Blastomycosis urine test and CT scan of the chest are recommended in a few people. Blastomycosis test also involves Fungal Blood culture examinations in some cases. In Blastomycosis blood test is very important.
In Blastomycosis fungus treatment by antibiotic drugs is not recommended unless the infection in the lungs becomes severe and begins to spread outside it. In such cases, treatment involves use of anti-fungal medicines like Ketoconazole, Fluconazole and Itraconazole. Amphotericin B is considered to be the best medication in treating severe infection.
Sulfonamide drugs do not kill fungus but have been proven to be very effective in reducing symptoms of the Blastomycosis infection.
Is Blastomycosis Fatal?
Blastomycosis lung infection can be fatal for a sufferer if not diagnosed early. Clinical reports of the 1960s mention a mortality rate of 5% in treated cases of Blastomycosis and 42% in untreated ones. Patients with a weakened immune system are generally at a life risk from this disease.
Where Is Blastomycosis Found?
In the West, Blastomycosis endemic areas include central and southeastern regions of the US such as Great Lakes, Ohio River and Mississippi River. About 1 in every 100,000 people is known to suffer from this ailment in areas like Kentucky, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Arkansas. Though Blastomycosis affects people all over the world, cases are mostly reported from regions like Canada, Africa, South America, Mexico, India and the Middle East.
Blastomycosis has an excellent prognosis if treated well. Patients with minor skin lesions and lung infections usually make a complete recovery in a very short time. But if not cured timely, it may result in death.
Complications in Blastomycosis fungus infection involve appearance of large, pus filled abscesses, relapse of infection and side effects from use of medicines like amphotericin B.
If you suspect yourself or anyone close to you to be suffering from Blastomycosis symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Timely treatment will keep your health safe and let you make a fast recovery within days.
Written by anirudh
on March 22nd, 2011. The article was last updated on September 2nd, 2011