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Fungal Arthritis: A Hidden Threat in Mold Exposure

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Arthritis is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. While most are familiar with osteoarthritis, there are many other forms of arthritis, such as fungal arthritis, which is linked to mold exposure. This article will explore the connection between mold exposure and arthritis, the symptoms of fungal arthritis, and the available treatment options.

Understanding Fungal Arthritis: Mold's Effect on Joints

Fungal arthritis, also known as mold-related arthritis, is caused by a mold-related infection that enters the bloodstream and reaches the joints. This process, known as hematogenous spread of infection, can result from exposure to mold in the home or from contaminated medications injected directly into the joint.

Mold and Joint Inflammation

The most common way for mold to cause joint inflammation is through hematogenous spread of fungal infection to the joint. However, fungal arthritis can also be caused by exogenous inoculation, which is less common and occurs when contaminated medication is injected into the joint.

Common mold types that cause fungal arthritis include Aspergillus, Candida, and Exserohilum. People with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for developing fungal arthritis, although it can affect otherwise healthy individuals if they are exposed to contaminated medications.

Identifying the Symptoms of Fungal Arthritis

Fungal arthritis symptoms can vary, but they generally include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warmth to the touch
  • Decreased range of motion in the affected joint

In some cases, a fever may also develop. Symptoms can take weeks or even months to appear after the initial infection, which can make it difficult to link the condition to mold exposure or contaminated medications.

Fungal arthritis can affect any joint, but it is most commonly found in the knee joints.

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Treating Fungal Arthritis: Medications and Surgical Interventions

Fungal arthritis is a serious infection that requires prompt medical attention. Treatment typically involves antifungal medications such as amphotericin B or Diflucan. However, in many cases, surgical drainage of the infected joint is necessary. Patients may need to consult with both an infectious disease specialist and an orthopedic surgeon for proper treatment.

In addition to medical treatment, it is essential to address the source of mold exposure. This may involve tracking down contaminated medications or identifying and removing mold from the patient's home to prevent further exposure and complications.

Seeking Professional Help for Mold Removal

If fungal arthritis is linked to mold exposure at home, it is crucial to have the mold professionally removed to prevent further health problems. Mold testing can help determine if mold is present in the home, and professional mold removal services can safely and effectively eliminate the problem.

Understanding the link between mold exposure and arthritis is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect fungal arthritis or mold exposure, consult with a healthcare professional to receive appropriate guidance and care.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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