Fungi produce spores during their reproductive cycles. When a human inhales or comes in contact with these spores, they may cause a fungal infection, or incite an allergic-type inflammatory reaction. Fungal infections are considered opportunistic – meaning that while fungal inhalation is harmless most of the time, it may not be to a patient who is immunocompromised. When fungal spores enter the system and the immune system is not able to properly react, the fungal spores can germinate and grow inside the human host. There are fungal causes to such diseases as bronchitis, pharyngitis, rhinitis, stomatitis and sinusitis. If the body’s allergic reaction to the fungus is hyperactive, severe inflammation can be seen.
Fungal sinusitis: There has been no definite relationship between people with chronic sinusitis and fungus, since a positive fungus culture can be found on many people who do not have sinusitis. Acute invasive fungal sinusitis targets immunocompromised patients. In chronic invasive fungal sinusitis, fungal infection of the tissues is present, but the time course and severity of disease is less than in the acute form. A mild form of fungal sinusitis is a “fungus ball” which is a benign fungal growth, often in those with normal immune systems, which can easily be surgically removed. Allergic fungal sinusitis is caused by the presence of fungus and the body’s reaction to it, and is usually treated with both surgery and anti-inflammatory medical therapies. Acute and chronic fungal sinusitis is treated with antifungal medicines and surgery.
Stomatitis: Stomatitis refers to infection of the oral cavity. Fungal stomatisis is often characterized by white or yellow “fuzzy” or “curd-like” patches in the mouth. This responds well to topical antifungal medicines.
Pharyngitis: Pharyngitis is the inflammation of the throat. Fungal causes are determined by the presence of white plaques seen throughout the oral cavity. Topical antifungal medication is the usual treatment.