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  • Definition

    Histoplasmosis is afungal infection that usually affects the lungs.
    lungs and bronchioles
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  • Causes

    Histoplasmosis is caused by a specific fungus. People often become infected when they inhale the fungus. The fungus can become airborne in dust or debris during demolition projects. People can also come in contact with the fungus through contact with soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings.
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of exposure to histoplasmosis include:
    • Having a job that puts you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such as in an aviary
    • Being involved in activities that put you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such such as cave exploration
    • Keeping birds as pets
    • Living along river valleys
    • Living in Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, or Tennessee
    • Living in eastern Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, parts of the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or Africa
    • Having recently traveled to a location where histoplasmosis is common
    Not everyone who comes in contact with the fungus will develop an infection. Medical conditions that weaken your immune system, like HIV, cancer treatment, or having an organ transplant can increase your chance of infection.
  • Symptoms

    Histoplasmosis does not generally cause symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Weakness
    • Headache
    • Chills
    • Chest pain
    • Achy muscles
    • Joint pain
    • Feelings of discomfort or uneasiness
    • Spitting out blood
    • Shortness of breath
    • Weight loss
    • Mouth sores
    • Abdominal fullness from an enlarged liver and spleen
    • Skin rashes
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Loss of vision
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Your body fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Blood culture
    • Sputum culture
    • Skin testing
    • Urine antigen testing
    • Bone marrow tests
    Pulmonary function tests and x-rays may be done to see how much your lungs have been affected.
  • Treatment

    The immune system can often remove the fungus. People who do not have symptoms or those who have mild symptoms do not need treatment.
    Antifungal medication may be needed if symptoms last for more than 1 month.
    If you have a suppressed immune system, like HIV, you may need life-long antifungal medication. The medication will help to prevent a recurrence of histoplasmosis.
  • Prevention

    If you might be exposed to bird or bat droppings, wear a face mask.
    If you have a weakened immune system, completely avoid:
    • Any areas where you may find bird and bat droppings
    • Creating or working with surface dust from soil
    • Cleaning, remodeling, or demolishing old buildings
    • Cleaning chicken coops
    • Exploring caves

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


    Health Canada

    Public Health Agency of Canada


    Histoplasmosis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated March 2014. Accessed November 16, 2015.

    Histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated August 15, 2014. Accessed November 16, 2015.

    Histoplasmosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 26, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015.

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