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Infectious mononucleosis

Synonyms: Mono, The kissing disease, Pfeiffer's disease, Glandular disease

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Overview of infectious mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis is an infection transmitted through the saliva and mucus. It is also known as glandular fever and is caused by Epstein-Barr virus. The virus is transmitted from person to person by saliva.

After the virus enters into the body it takes about 4 to 8 weeks for the first symptoms to appear. More often it’s seen in young adults of age 15 to 25.Infectious mononucleosis is characterized by fever, sore throat and enlargement of lymph nodes (organs of the immune system). Difficulty in breathing occurs due to swelling behind the throat.1

Annual incidence of 10 to 48 cases per 1000 occurs in young adults.2 Severe complication leads to enlargement of spleen. Taking adequate fluids and bed rest is the key for the therapy.3 


Causes of infectious mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis is mainly caused by Epstein-Barr virus. This virus spreads from an infected to an uninfected individual through the saliva.

Thereby actions such as kissing, coughing, and sneezing can facilitate the spread.

Sharing of the food utensils with an infected person can also increase your susceptibly of developing the infection.


Signs and symptoms of Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis commonly occurs in young adults and children.

Following are signs for infectious mononucleosis

  • Weakness,
  • Skin rashes,
  • Difficulty in breathing and
  • Fatigue

Following are symptoms for infectious mononucleosis

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in neck
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats and
  • Fever also persist.

Following are also observed in severe cases.

  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Decreased platelet counts

A wide range of other signs and symptoms may be noted based on the organ affected. Some of these include: arthritis, hepatitis, inflammation of the eyes and its other structures, and anemia.1, 2


Diagnosis of Infectious Mononucleosis

Physical examination shows the signs of fever, sore throat, lymph node enlargement, and enlargement of tonsiller, spleen and liver.

Blood tests such as monospot test are done to check the antibodies which act against the Epstein-Barr virus. White blood cell count test shows the abnormal structure of lymphocytes and elevated number of white blood cells.

These blood tests do not confirm mononucleosis but suggestion is considered.1


Treatment of Infectious Mononucleosis

There is no specific cure reported for infectious mononucleosis. The symptoms of the infections persist for about 4 weeks and then subside itself.

Mainstay of the treatment is supportive care. Individuals are suggested to take bed rest during the course of the infection. Adequate fluid intake should be practiced.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen is prescribed for fever and muscle pain. Throat lozenges, sprays or gargling with lidacaine relieves sore throat. 1


Complications of Infectious Mononucleosis

Enlargement of spleen is one of the complication seen in severe cases wherein the spleen may get ruptured in rare instances. Blurred vision, fainting and lightheadedness are some of the common symptoms of spleen rupture and a doctor should be contacted immediately.1

Enlargement of tonsils can lead to airway obstruction causing breathlessness in some individuals. Rare complications such as inflammation of the brain and heart muscle also exists.2

Prevention for Infectious Mononucleosis

As Epstein-Barr virus is present in the saliva for months affected individuals should not share the dishes, glasses or utensils until fever subsides or even for longer duration. Individuals should avoid kissing and coming in close contact with body fluid secretions of the affected individuals.3,5 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 29, 2012

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