A sore throat, persistent fatigue, and swollen lymph glands are the signature symptoms of the well known condition called: glandular fever. You may also know it as mono, infectious mononucleosis, and a myriad of other names, it always results in a very unhappy and uncomfortable person.
Cause and Symptoms
Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, mono typically incubates in a person anywhere from 30 to 50 days before becoming active. During this long incubation period, in which there is no symptoms, it is possible for a person to infect another individual without realizing it.
Many people begin their infectious mononucleosis cycle with symptoms very similar to a typical flu, with fever, body aches, sore throat, and lethargy. It is the duration of the symptoms which alert both medical professionals and the afflicted person that what is being experienced is not a routine influenza virus, but something more.
As the glandular fever progresses, people will often experience severe fatigue and a noticeable swelling of the lymph nodes. These are the same symptoms which will often spur the same person to seek medical attention.
Other common symptoms may include
- persistent headache
- facial swelling
- abdominal swelling or tenderness
- nausea and/or vomiting
- In some rare cases, jaundice or a rash may develop.
Confirmation of Infection
The distinct symptoms of this disease: duration, fatigue, and swollen lymph glands, are often enough to prompt a diagnosis from a medical provider without undergoing additional testing.
Mono can be confirmed through blood work and/or a throat culture if there are questions regarding the diagnosis.
Transmission and Susceptibility
The Epstein-Barr virus which is responsible for mono is transmitted through saliva. A person can be exposed to the saliva of an infected individual by kissing, using the same drinking container, eating with the same utensils, taking bites from the same food, and any other route in which saliva can be moved from one person to another.
Children and young adults are the most susceptible to mono. The primary age range that is affected are those between 10 and 25 years old. There is also no correlation between gender and a higher or lower susceptibility to glandular fever.
It is perhaps the combination of the mode of transmission and the youthful age group that is most often afflicted which has earned glandular fever the euphemistic title of “Kissing Disease”, the original cootie factor.
In rare cases an individual can develop serious complications during the active infection.
The spleen, as a part of the immune system, may become compromised, swollen, or even rupture as the person fights the Epstein-Barr virus. Under the stress of the mononucleosis infection the spleen may be unable to fulfill the demands of the body and the sufferer may develop anemia.
The liver, which also is important in filtering the blood, may also become involved as the body deals with the viral infection. When the liver becomes weakened, there is the possibility of a lower platelet count developing, known as thrombocytopenia. A poorly functioning liver will also contribute to anemia, and may lead to vomiting and nausea.
Pneumonia, meningitis, and encephalitis can also develop if the Epstein-Barr virus manages to pass the natural barriers within the body, leading to infection of the central nervous system or the respiratory system.
Treatment and Recovery
Not unlike stubborn nail fungus, infectious mononucleosis is not treatable with antibiotics.
Standard treatment includes plenty of rest and symptomatic relief with analgesics, anti-inflammatories and antipyretics as needed. The recovery time can vary widely by individual and may last from a couple of weeks to months.
Mild exercise, such as walking, as tolerated is encouraged during illness, this is because the lymphatic system functions at its peak when a person is active. The human lymph system, a major contributor to the immune function, requires the massaging pressure provided by the skeletal muscles as they are used in activity to circulate their healing immune properties.
It is also strongly stressed that a person who is trying to recover from glandular fever obtain plenty of rest as well. The incredible level of fatigue a person develops during the phases of the infection cycle will often push the afflicted person to seek rest without argument.