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4 Things You Need To Know About Coccidiodomycosis

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Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection. It's caused by a genus of fungi called coccidioides that are endemic to the Southwestern region of the United States. When coccidioides infect your mouth, the resulting infection is known as oral coccidioidomycosis. Here are four things you need to know about it.   

What are the signs of coccidioidomycosis?

Coccidioidomycosis is contracted when you breathe in the coccidioides fungi, so typically, the first sign of the infection is pneumonia. You may have a cough, chest pain, or even cough up blood. This infection can then spread from your lungs to other nearby parts of your body, like your oral tissues.

When coccidioidomycosis affects the oral tissues, it causes verrucous lesions. These lesions are lumpy and wart-like and can be found on any of your oral soft tissues, including your tongue. These lesions may become ulcerated and painful, and the surrounding tissue may become swollen.

Other oral symptoms may include infection of the jaw or the salivary glands. If you notice lesions inside your mouth, make sure to bring them to your doctor's attention right away.

How is it treated?

The oral lesions associated with coccidioidomycosis look similar to oral cancers, so your doctor may want to perform a biopsy. The biopsied tissue will be examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells. If no cancer is found, your doctor may have the tissue analyzed for signs of fungal infection.

Once the diagnosis of coccidioidomycosis is confirmed, you will be treated with antifungal medications. These medications can be given either intravenously or orally, or both. You may need to take the antifungals for as long as twelve months, depending on the severity of your infection.

How common is coccidioidomycosis?

Coccidioidomycosis is estimated to affect about 150,000 people every year in the United States. Many of these cases are limited to the lungs, but the infection can also spread to other parts of the body, including the mouth.

Among people who are immunocompromised, such as AIDS patients or organ transplant recipients, the infection affects tissues other than the lungs in between 30% and 50% of cases. It's not known how many of these disseminated infections involve the oral tissues, though oral lesions resulting from coccidioidomycosis are reported to be rare.

If you develop pneumonia and notice lesions inside your mouth, make sure to see a primary care physician right away. You could have coccidioidomycosis, a treatable fungal infection.