coughing - choking - breathing emergency

What is aspergillosis?

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Aspergillosis is an infection involving the lungs which is caused by the fungus Aspergillus. Aspergilli are quite common in the environment both outdoors and indoors, usually in air vents, compost heaps and airborne dust.

In most cases, aspergillosis is caused by inhaling the Aspergillus spores. Many individuals inhale these spores daily without being affected. If the immune system is weak, the infection is likely to develop. Remember that aspergillosis is an opportunistic fungal infection.

The immune system might be weakened by conditions that affect the immune system such as cancer, drugs such as corticosteroids, chemotherapy and medications to prevent rejection of an organ transplant.

What are the indications of aspergillosis?

Liver failure, kidney failure and difficulty breathing can occur.

A fungus ball in the lungs might not trigger symptoms and only discovered when a chest X-ray is taken for other reasons. This can also be caused by repeated coughing up of blood and even significant bleeding in rare cases.

If it spreads to other organs, it can make the individual very sick. The symptoms include chills, fever, delirium, shock and blood clots. Liver failure, kidney failure and difficulty breathing can occur. Death can rapidly occur.

Once the ear canal is affected, it results to itchiness and occasional pain. The drainage of fluid overnight from the ear can leave a stain on the pillow. If the sinuses are affected, there is congestion and oftentimes discharge or pain as well as bleeding from the nose.


Aspergillosis that affects only the sinus or a single area in the lungs necessitates treatment but does not pose as an immediate threat since it progresses slowly. Nevertheless, if the infection is extensive or the individual appears seriously sick or has a declining immune system, treatment is required right away.

Invasive aspergillosis is treated using antifungal drugs. In some cases, treatment involves amphotericin B or with a combination of other medications.

If the ear canal is affected, the treatment involves scraping the fungus out and the application of drops of antifungal drugs. The buildup of fungi in the sinuses require surgical removal.

The fungus balls in the lungs do not require treatment using drugs since they do not respond to them. Nevertheless, if these balls trigger bleeding episodes or other symptoms, antifungal drugs can minimize the symptoms. The fungus balls should be removed surgically. Remember that surgery can deal with the infection but there is a risk since most individuals have other conditions.

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