Fever of Unknown Origin

Definition

Fever of unknown origin is a higher body temperature with no clear cause, even though there has been at least one or two weeks of testing.

Causes

The cause of this fever is unknown. In some people the cause may never be known.

Factors that may make it difficult to find a cause include:

  • A common illness that does not have the usual symptoms
  • Illness, whose other symptoms appear later
  • Illnesses who may have a delayed positive test
  • Person is unable to communicate about other symptoms such as an infant or someone in a coma
  • Genetic condition that causes periodic fevers—very rare

Risk Factors

Since the cause of FUO's is unclear, there are no specific factors that increase your chance of this fever.

Symptoms

A fever is generally considered a temperature over 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius) but the exact number can vary. A fever of unknown origin may be consistent or occur sporadically.

The fever may also be accompanied by chills, sweating, or other symptoms that are caused by the underlying illness.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If there is no clear cause, your doctor will begin to narrow possibilities. The first step is to ask about your recent history such as:

  • Were you traveling abroad?
  • Were you hospitalized?
  • Is your immune system damaged?
  • What medicines are you currently taking?

Based on your history your doctor may then order some tests to look for possible causes. Tests may include:

  • Blood, urine, and other body products testing
  • Images of internal organs and structures with x-rays , CT scans, MRI scans, or ultrasound
  • Biopsy of suspicious tissue
  • Endoscopies to examine the inside of the lungs, intestines, or sinuses
Endoscopy
Endoscope in stomach
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Treatment

Treatment for the fever may not be necessary since a fever is a normal part of your immune system. Lowering the fever with medication may make it harder for your body to fight the infection, if one is present. Your doctor may recommend medication to lower the fever if it is extremely high or causing other health related problems.

If an underlying condition is found, treatment will be based on that illness.

Prevention

Since the cause is unclear there are no steps to prevent FUO.

Revisions

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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