What is meant by a systemic fungal infection? Are such infections dangerous? Scroll down to find out more on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of invasive fungal infections.
Fungal infections are broadly classified into superficial infections and systemic infections. Superficial infections, which are also referred to as superficial mycoses, are the infections wherein the skin and the mucus membranes get affected on account of exposure to fungi. On the other hand, a systemic fungal infection occurs as a result of inhalation of the spores of fungi. These spores move into the bloodstream and start affecting the internal organs of the body.
While superficial infections can be easily diagnosed and treated, systemic infections can pose serious health risks. In fact, in absence of medical assistance, life-threatening situations could arise due to systemic infections. Those who have a compromised immune system, are definitely more susceptible to such opportunistic infections. Scroll down to find out more on causes, symptoms and treatment of systemic infections caused by fungi.
Systemic Fungal Infection
Causes and Symptoms
Candidiasis, aspergillosis and cryptococcosis are some of the common infections that are caused by Candida albicans, Aspergillus and Cryptococcus respectively. If any of these fungi enter into the bloodstream, they may attack the internal organs, thereby causing distressing symptoms.
Candida is a fungus that lives within the human body, but under certain circumstances, these may start multiplying and start affecting the organs. Prolonged use of antibiotics and elevated blood sugar levels may put one at an increased risk of developing this infection. The infection can affect vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and the lungs. Intestinal yeast infection can cause bloating, indigestion, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. If the fungi travels up to the brain, one may even suffer from seizures.
Cryptococcosis is another serious infection that is caused by inhaling a fungus called Cryptococcus. This fungus is mainly found in soil with pigeon droppings. This fungus can cause inflammation of the meninges. Under such circumstances, one is most likely to experience symptoms such as confusion, nausea, vomiting, seizures, blurred vision, headaches or drowsiness. If the lungs get affected, one may experience symptoms such as malaise, dry cough, fever and chest pain. Another fungus called Aspergillus may affect the sinuses or lungs. Invasive aspergillosis occurs when this fungi invades the lungs and thereon to other organs through the blood.
It may affect people who are immunocompromised. Those diagnosed with cancer or HIV are susceptible. In severe cases, the brain or the bones may also get affected. This fungi may be inhaled through soil or house dust. If lungs or the sinuses are affected, one is most likely to experience symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, fever, cough or nosebleeds. While these symptoms are exhibited by one suffering from a fungal infection in the lungs, varied symptoms will be experienced depending on the part of the body that is affected by this infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If doctors suspect the patient to be suffering from such a pathogenic infection, they will conduct a complete blood test, blood culture, urinalysis, X-rays, and other diagnostic procedures in order to formulate a diagnosis. The treatment will basically vary depending on the internal organ that may be affected by the fungi. If the patient is exhibiting neurological symptoms, and the doctors suspect the patient to be suffering from meningitis, they may examine cerebrospinal fluid as well. As far as the treatment is concerned, the use of antifungal drugs is the first step towards stopping the fungi from growing further. As mentioned earlier, aspergillosis, candidiasis and cryptococcosis, are the most common systemic diseases caused by fungi.
Once the doctors are able to identify the causal fungus, they can determine the treatment option that may work for the patient. For instance, voriconazole is one of the drugs, that is used for the treatment of invasive aspergillosis. This can be taken orally, or administered intravenously. Other drugs that may be prescribed include amphotericin B, itraconazole or caspofungin. In severe cases, when a ball of fungus fibers, white blood cells and blood clots forms in the lungs, surgery may be required. Candidiasis and cryptococcosis are also treated with the help of antifungal drugs such as ketoconazole, fluconazole, itraconazole or amphotericin B. Drug therapy coupled with dietary changes will certainly help in alleviating the symptoms of candidiasis.
Fungi that infiltrate the internal organs through the bloodstream, can certainly lead to life-threatening situations. It is therefore, essential that one consults a doctor on experiencing the aforementioned symptoms immediately. A timely diagnosis and treatment will help in preventing the fungi from causing severe damage to the internal organs. The earlier this condition is diagnosed and treated, the speedier will the recovery be.