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Symptoms of Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis can have painful symptoms and can last a long time.

Fatigue and excessive tiredness are common symptoms of mononucleosis. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Fatigue and excessive tiredness are common symptoms of mononucleosis.

Symptoms of Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis also called mono or the kissing disease is a contagious viral infection that most often affects children and young adults. A fairly common illness, most people are familiar with mononucleosis from their schooldays, either from having it themselves or being vaguely jealous of their classmates who got to miss weeks of school because of it. Mononucleosis isn't a vacation, though the symptoms of mononucleosis can be severe and last for several weeks.

Symptoms of Mononucleosis

The hallmark symptoms of mononucleosis are fatigue, weakness and sore throat, but there are many other common symptoms. These include:

  • Swollen tonsils, sometimes covered by a white substance
  • Fever
  • Sore throat similar to strep throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the armpits and neck
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Rash

Less common symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nosebleed
  • Hives
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Swollen spleen
  • Swollen liver
  • Stiff neck

Causes of Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is usually spread through saliva hence the term kissing disease. Mononucleosis can also be spread through sharing utensils, drinking glasses or toothbrushes with infected people.

Most cases of mononucleosis are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. By the time most people reach adulthood, theyve been exposed to the mononucleosis-causing virus and have developed antibodies to it, which is why mono is much more prevalent in the younger population.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Mononucleosis

A diagnosis of mononucleosis will depend on a number of factors, including the symptoms being presented as well as the result of a blood test known as a monospot. This test indicates the presence of Epstein-Barr antibodies in the bloodstream, which may indicate that the virus is present. Unfortunately, this test is not especially accurate within the first week of infection.

Fortunately, mononucleosis will usually go away on its own without treatment within a few weeks. One major complication which may arise is an enlarged spleen, in which case the patient should avoid contact sports to prevent damage to the organ. Liver problems such as jaundice or hepatitis may also occur. Additionally, secondary infections, such as strep throat or sinus infections, may occur simultaneously with mononucleosis. If this is the case, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the symptoms of the bacterial infection.

Because mono is a viral infection, though, antibiotics are useless against it. For most people the best remedy is plenty of rest and fluids the virus runs its course.

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