What Medical Issues Are Caused by Mold?

When you think of mold, what comes to mind? It's probably that disgusting black, green or pink gunk that accumulates in various places where water is endlessly used, and dampness occurs, or maybe it's that musty smell that seems to permeate everything and never dissipates. Technically, that mold you see and smell is just the common name for what is known as a fungus or fungi, and there are many different types that can cause reactions. People are aware that mold can create more issues than just buildup in areas of a home or yard, as mold can be equally as damaging to the health of individuals and cause real issues.

Though not every individual is affected by mold, those who are can experience any number of medical problems associated with both indoor and outdoor mold infestation. Those issues range from minor allergic reactions to more problematic respiratory conditions, asthma, immune system failures, and dangerous infections. More complicated and involved medical issues caused by mold include various conditions that are less intense and bothersome to other reactions that can be intense and ongoing. So, just what kind of medical problems are caused by mold?

1 - Allergic Responses

Allergic reactions to mold are caused by the inhalation of mold spores. Though not always damaging, exposure to certain molds may cause hay fever like symptoms that run the gamut from endless sneezing, congestion, watery eyes and coughing to dry, flaky skin and inflammation of the nasal passages, eyes and throat. These symptoms can be exacerbated through exposure to damp and moldy areas such as basements and other spots where ventilation is limited. Treatment for less complicated allergic responses can consist of the use of over the counter medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays and sinus rinses. If symptoms are more severe, a doctor may recommend testing for mold allergies with follow up allergy shots, which are designed to improve the body's immune system to deal with mold allergies.

2 - Asthma

If a person has been diagnosed with asthma, breathing in mold spores can either aggravate it or initiate the condition in susceptible individuals. Taking in the spores or coming in direct contact with them can cause an asthma attack or flare-up. Asthma is characterized by wheezing, prolonged coughing, shortness of breath, fast or rapid breathing, chest pressure, periodic respiratory infections, increased heart rate and throat inflammation. Both mold allergies and asthma can cause situations that require immediate intervention. Utilizing prescribed asthma medications are the first line of defense. There are inhalers that block or avert symptoms and are inhalers that work to prevent the attacks from occuring in the first place. More severe asthma cases caused by mold may require oral medications along with a longer-acting inhaler that allows passageways to remain open at all times. If severity is more involved, insertion of a breathing tube may be necessary along with use of an oxygen pump machine while other medications are administered to relieve the attack.

3 - Fungal Sinusitis

A sinus infection attributed to mold can cause inflammation in the sinuses, which can result in infection of all the nasal sinuses (four of them). This more widespread type of infection is usually due to a fungal growth within the body. Symptoms are identified by fever, swelling of the facial area, facial pain or numbness, along with cough, headache, nasal canal ulcers, nasal discharge and mental outlook changes. Intervention for Fungal Sinusitis conditions usually entails irrigating the sinuses with saline solutions and administering medicines to reduce inflammation. In some cases sinus surgery may be necessary to eliminate fungal material.

4 - Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)

This condition is an allergic reaction to fungus that is found in the lungs. It is more common in individuals with asthma and cystic fibrosis and occurs as an overreaction to the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, which is a fungus or mold that can be found in soil, water, dust, disintegrating or rotting plant life, such as leaves as well as other vegetation. It can also be found in some foods and spices. Individuals with impaired immune systems can easily develop an infection from inhaling the mold. The infection is characterized by frequent coughing, bronchial tube obstruction, heavy mucus production, wheezing, chest pain, chest tightness, intermittent fever, fatigue, shortness of breath and tightened airways. Treatment for the condition includes the control of inflammation and restraining progression.

5 - Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

This is a rare condition that happens through exposure to airborne mold spores traveling through the air, particularly in the case of certain kinds of dust particles. Usually a chest x-ray, lung function tests, blood tests and bronchoscopy (flexible tube with camera attachment for use through the nose or mouth) for specimen collection. Lung tissue biopsies can also be performed for further diagnosis. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite. Treatment is usually in the form of medications to suppress the immune system as well as complete avoidance of the type of dust that has been inhaled. If the condition progresses and causes severe lung scarring, a lung transplant may be considered.


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