Mucormycosis is an infection that can affect the sinuses, brain, lungs, and sometimes the skin. It is a serious infection that can be fatal.
Mucormycosis is caused by a fungus that is often found in soil, decaying plants or wood, and compost piles. The fungus enters the body through cuts or scrapes in the skin or by being inhaled into the sinuses and airways. Once in the body, the fungus can spread rapidly and quickly become fatal.
A healthy immune system can often manage the fungus and eliminate it before problems begin. However, the fungus can grow and cause severe damage if the body does not have a strong immune system.
A weakened immune system increases your chance of mucormycosis. Conditions or treatments that weaken your immune system include:
- Diabetic ketoacidosis—a complication of diabetes
- HIV infection
- Leukemia or lymphoma
- Being the recipient of an organ transplant
- Long-term steroid use
- Treatment with deferoxamine—an antidote to iron poisoning
- Metabolic acidosis—too much acid in the blood
Chronic sinus infection can also increase your risk of mucormycosis.
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Symptoms will depend on the location of the infection. Inhaled mucormycosis may lead to:
- Facial pain
- Swollen or protruding eyes
- Redness of the skin over the sinuses
- Cough; occasionally coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting blood
- Pain in the side between the upper abdomen and the back
An infection in the skin may start with blisters or sores around the skin wound. The skin tissue may later be tender, red, swollen, and turn black.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A sample of the infected tissue will be taken and examined in a lab.
Mucormycosis is a serious infection and requires aggressive treatment, including surgery to remove dead tissue. Early treatment can lead to better outcomes. Antifungal medication is started as soon as possible. It may be given as a pill or by IV.
The fungus that causes this infection is found in many places. Avoiding contact with it is difficult.
The best preventative step is to control or prevent the conditions that make you vulnerable to mucormycosis.
- David L. Horn, MD
- Reviewed: 05/2016
- Updated: 06/19/2014
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