Mononucleosis, also known as glandular fever and more colloquially the “kissing disease,” is a viral infection that is often spread by saliva and close contact. It is an infection caused by the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which is a member of the herpes virus family. Although mononucleosis occurs most commonly in teenagers aged between 15 and 17, this disease may develop at any age.
Mononucleosis often begins slowly with a general feeling of malaise, starting with nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, headache and sore throat. As the disease progresses, the sore throat slowly worsens. In addition, the tonsils and lymph nodes in the necks and arm pits are often swollen and very painful. Loss of appetite, muscle aches and rash may also occur.
Treatment for mononucleosis is typically to relieve the symptoms as medications have little or no benefit on the disease itself. It is advised to drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest and take medication for the pain and fever. Since other lymph organs such as the liver and spleen may also be swollen, it is advised to avoid sports to prevent rupturing the spleen. It is expected that the fever will be broken in 10 days. The rest of the symptoms will fade away within a month although fatigue may still be present for another 2 to 3 months.
Generally, people will only contract mononucleosis once. Once infected, the patient carries the dormant virus in his or her B lymphocytes for the rest of his or her life. The immune system normally keeps the virus under control. However, under certain circumstances when the immune system is under stress, the virus may reactive, cause vague symptoms of general illness and the person becomes contagious again. A recurrence may occur months or even years after the first time. Recurring mononucleosis is an indication of a poor immune system that needs strengthening. Treatment remains the same.
Chronic mononucleosis, on the other hand, occurs when the symptoms persist for longer than six months after the initial diagnosis. This is a very rare occurrence. But if it does occur, patients may need corticosteroid medication to alleviate the swelling in the throat. Complications that may also occur include hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), jaundice and inflammation of the spleen. If the symptoms do persist beyond the normal time frame for mononucleosis, it is important to see a doctor.
Mononucleosis is a disease that can be passed from one person onto another during the contagious period. Therefore, if anyone has contracted the disease, it is vital for them to stay away from other people in order to reduce the chance of them passing it on to other people. In addition, regardless of the type of mononucleosis contracted, it is always advised to see a medical professional.