The signs and symptoms of aspergillosis vary with the type of illness you develop:
Some people with asthma or cystic fibrosis have an allergic reaction to aspergillus mold. Signs and symptoms of this condition, known as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, include:
- A cough that may bring up blood or plugs of mucus
- Worsening asthma
Certain chronic lung (pulmonary) conditions, such as emphysema, tuberculosis or advanced sarcoidosis, can cause air spaces (cavities) to form in the lungs. When people with lung cavities are also infected with aspergillus, fungus fibers may find their way into the cavities and grow into tangled masses (fungus balls) known as aspergillomas.
Aspergillomas may produce no symptoms or cause only a mild cough at first. Over time and without treatment, however, aspergillomas can worsen the underlying chronic lung condition and possibly cause:
- A cough that often brings up blood (hemoptysis)
- Shortness of breath
- Unintentional weight loss
This is the most severe form of aspergillosis. It occurs when the infection spreads rapidly from the lungs to the brain, heart, kidneys or skin. Invasive aspergillosis occurs only in people whose immune systems are weakened as a result of cancer chemotherapy, bone marrow transplantation or a disease of the immune system. Untreated, this form of aspergillosis may be fatal.
Signs and symptoms depend on which organs are affected, but in general, invasive aspergillosis can cause:
- Fever and chills
- A cough that brings up blood (hemoptysis)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or joint pain
- Headaches or eye symptoms
- Skin lesions
Other types of aspergillosis
Aspergillus can invade areas of your body other than your lungs, such as your sinuses. In your sinuses, the fungus can cause a stuffy nose sometimes accompanied by drainage that may contain blood. Fever, facial pain and headache may also occur.
When to see a doctor
If you have asthma or cystic fibrosis, see your doctor whenever you notice a change in your breathing. Although aspergillosis may not be the cause, it's important to have breathing problems evaluated.
If you have a weakened immune system and develop an unexplained fever, shortness of breath or a cough that brings up blood, get immediate medical care. In the case of invasive aspergillosis, prompt treatment is crucial. In some cases, treatment with antifungal medication begins as soon as aspergillosis is suspected, even before testing has confirmed the diagnosis.