What Is Cryptococcosis?
It is a fungal infection that may affect the entire physical system or only the central nervous system. This is a common infection that affects many people, particularly those with AIDS.
Some of the main symptoms of Cryptococcosis are:
- Blurred vision
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Breastbone tenderness (sternum)
- Chest pain
- Cough — dry
- Bone pain
- Petechiae (skin rash that look like localized red spots)
- Swollen glands
- Unintentional weight loss
- Profuse sweating, especially at night
Cryptococcosis is caused by an infection with a type of fungus known as Cryptococcus neoformans. This fungus is typically found in the soil. The organism generally affects people with a weak immune system such as patients of HIV Infection or Hodgkin ’s disease. It may also affect cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and individuals who are treated with high doses of Corticosteroid drugs. Corticosteroid drugs act as immunity suppressant medicines. It lowers the natural immune response of the body to infections and increases susceptibility to fungal disorders.
Once it enters the human body, it infects the lungs. It may remain only in the lungs or spread to other parts of the body as well. The infection may spread to the brain in people with weakened immunity.
Individuals with healthy immune system do not experience any symptoms from infection of their lungs by this fungus.
The condition is diagnosed by physical examination as well as medical tests. Doctors performing physical examination typically look for signs like stiffness of neck, changes in mental conditions, rapid heart rate, fever and unusual breathing sounds.
Medical examination for this disorder involves tests like blood culture, sputum stain, sputum culture, Bronchoscopy, Lung biopsy, Chest X-ray and CT scan of the brain. All these tests help establish whether fungus has affected the human body.
In some cases, Spinal Tap is carried out to get a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid. Examination of the CSF can reveal whether the Cryptococcus fungal infection has reached the brain. Other tests like Cerebrospinal fluid culture may also be performed for the same reason.
Cryptococcal Antigen Test may also be needed in certain cases. The aim of this examination is to find a particular molecule that the fungus Cryptococcus may spill into the bloodstream.
The infection may resolve itself after a point of time. But if no treatment is done in the presence of symptoms, disseminated cryptococcosis may turn fatal. This makes medical treatment very important for curing the condition. Antifungal medicines are generally used to kill the Cryptococcus fungi and prevent it from disseminating into the physical system of the affected patient. Some typical medicines used to cure this disease are
- Amphotericin B
Antifungal medicines are generally used if there are lung lesions or if a spread of the infection throughout the system is suspected. Mild cases of Cryptococcus infection can be treated by using drugs like Itraconazole and Fluconazole for six months to one year. This is however, effective in treating Cryptococcus infections not affecting the Central Nervous System (CNS).
In patients with Cryptococcal meningitis, using Amphotericin B along with 5-fluorocytosine for about ten weeks can cure cryptococcosis of the Central Nervous System (CNS).This therapy can help sterilize the cerebro-spinal fluid and prevent further complications. Amphotericin B injections are also administered in some cases to remedy the condition.
Supportive care such as respirator and ventilation may also be provided to the sufferer if he or she suffers from severe breathing trouble.
If diagnosed and treated early, this condition can improve greatly and go away within a relatively short period of time. However, medicine dosage needs to be continued for a long time for complete cure. If the Central Nervous System (CNS) becomes involved, there may be permanent physical damage or even death.
This disease can be prevented by making a few dietary and lifestyle modifications. This includes
Reducing corticosteroid medications
As aforesaid, high doses of corticosteroid medications can give rise to this disorder. If you are using drugs of this type, it is necessary to lower the dosage of these medicines as much as possible to avoid developing this condition.
Practice safe sex
If you are having physical relation with multiple partners, it is necessary for you to practice safe sex by using good contraceptive. You should also limit your number of sexual partners and preferably stick to only one mate to avoid getting conditions like HIV. Such disorders can weaken immunity and make you susceptible to Cryptococcosis.
Improve your diet
It is necessary to incorporate healthy foods into your diet and avoid junk eatables as much as possible. Try to eat on a daily basis foods that are rich in Vitamin C such as tomatoes, broccoli, citrus fruits like oranges, sweet red peppers and cabbage. Vitamin C and other essential minerals will boost your natural immunity making you strong enough not to get this infection.
Remove pigeon nests
Pigeons themselves look harmless but their excreta can be quite dangerous for human health. Pigeon feces have a high salt and nitrogen content. This provides an ideal condition for survival and growth of Cryptococcus fungus. At 107.6 degrees, the body temperature of a pigeon is quite high to develop infection from this fungus. However, contaminated pigeon excreta can infect humans who have a lower body temperature than pigeons. Pigeon excreta can remain infectious for as long as two years.
Cryptococcosis incidence has been on the rise for the last 20 years and part of the reason is the increase in the number of AIDS sufferers and growing use of immune suppressant drugs. Almost eighty percent cases of disseminated Cryptococcosis are seen in patients with HIV infection. If you know any AIDS patient who is recently suffering from acute headaches, alert him or her about this disease and advise immediate medical treatment. This will help control the infection before it can permanently damage the central nervous system (CNS).