Pulmonary (Lung) Histoplasmosis

Pulmonary (Lung) Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. The fungus usually enters the body by being breathed into the lungs. This fungus can be found in soil in certain parts of the country. People with lung problems or weak immune systems are most at risk for this infection. Read on to learn more about the condition and how it is treated.

Outline of human head and chest with head turned to side. Inside of nose, trachea, and lungs are visible. Fungus is being breathed in to nose and lungs.

Symptoms of Lung Histoplasmosis

Many people with this lung infection have no symptoms. Often, the diagnosis is first suggested by a chest X-ray done for another purpose. If symptoms do occur, they may include fever, chills, dry coughing, chest pain, joint pain, and other flu-like symptoms.

Diagnosing Lung Histoplasmosis

You may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood and urine tests may help diagnose the problem.

  • Sputum culture takes fluid from the lungs and tests it for fungus.

  • Imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan, take detailed pictures of the lungs.

  • Biopsy takes a sample of lung tissue to test for fungus.

Treating Lung Histoplasmosis

Many people require no treatment. Treatment may be required if the infection is considered active or involves other parts of the body. Antifungal medications can often kill the fungus and treat the infection. You may need to take the medications for months. If the infection isn’t treated, scar tissue can form in the lungs. The infection can also spread to the rest of the body. Your health care provider can tell you more about your condition, treatment options, and prognosis.

Preventing Lung Histoplasmosis

You can reduce your risk of exposure to this infection. Avoid places with large amounts of bird or bat droppings. This includes caves, coops, and nesting areas. If you need to work in these areas, wear a protective breathing mask. This can help filter out dust that contains the fungus.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F  (38°C) or higher

  • Chest pain

  • Coughing up blood

  • Shortness of breath

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Symptoms that don’t get better with treatment