Mononucleosis (mono) is a viral disease that spreads by saliva. The first symptoms are usually confused with those of flu. However, timely diagnosis and treatment is always better when it comes to preventing this infectious disease from spreading.
Mononucleosis, better known as infectious mononucleosis, is a disease caused by virus like Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus. This mostly strikes youth who are aged around 15 – 17. As the viral infection spreads through the saliva, this disease is also nicknamed as the ‘kissing disease’. As per research, almost 95% of population in the United States has been affected by this infection, but many have developed immunity to the virus. Starting with fatigue and followed by headache and sore throat, this infection becomes prominent with the swelling of the lymph nodes and tonsils.
Initial Symptoms of Mono
The major and first signs are listed below:
- Fever and body ache
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin rash (pink measles like rash) and yellow coloration of skin
- Swollen spleen
- Muscle ache
Some other symptoms that follow later in severe cases are:
- Neck stiffness
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Sensitivity to light
A sore throat and a fever are common symptoms for many diseases that could be caused by bacteria, fungus or virus. Hence, there are some tests and physical examination to be done before the first indications of mono are confirmed, as to whether the disease is viral or not. Another important point to remember is that antibiotics like ampicillin or amoxicillin should NOT be consumed without a doctor’s prescription for strep test.
Diagnosis, Tests, and Treatment
The first symptoms of mono (mononucleosis) set in with swollen tonsils or swollen lymph nodes in the front and back of neck. Many a time, a shooting neck pain or sudden stiffness in neck may indicate the possibility of the inflammation. If the blood test reveals an abnormal count of white blood cells (atypical lymphocytes) and anomalous liver function, there is a strong possibility of mononucleosis. More specific tests like antibody tests (for monospot and heterophile) confirm and complete the diagnosis of mononucleosis.
To palliate the first symptoms, doctors recommend the patient to drink plenty of warm water (water is an important and natural cleansing agent which flushes off the toxins from the body). Gargling salt water can help in relieving the pain caused by a sore throat. Antibiotics like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be consumed to bring down the fever and body ache. To soothe the strep throat or swollen tonsils, cortisone medication is prescribed. Unless and until, the diagnosis is complete, it is advised NOT to take steroids (like prednisone) and antivirals (like acyclovir). Also, ample rest should be taken during this period to prevent any further impairment to swollen spleen (a ruptured spleen can result in grave medical condition in cases of internal bleeding).
Once the treatment has commenced to subside the first symptoms, the virus particles in the saliva can remain as along as 18 months, post the onset of infection. If these symptoms aggravate over a period of time, the condition may culminate into a chronic EBV infection. But in most cases, this infection disappears with proper care and medication. Fever subsides in 10 days, and the swollen lymph nodes and spleen heal in about 4 weeks. However, the individual may experience fatigue for months after treatment, and hence is advised to take a lot of rest. The people who suffer most from this infection are the ones with a compromised immune system. In such cases, following are the possible complications that could occur:
- Hemolytic Jaundice
- Orchitis (inflammation of testicles)
- Ruptured spleen
- Neurological complications like Bell’s palsy, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, Meningitis, Ataxia and Seizures
You must remember that mono is contagious, and it is better to avoid being around infected people. Kissing and sharing utensils is to strictly avoided.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.