Mononucleosis, commonly referred to simply as mono, is a very common illness with a reputation for striking teenagers and young adults. Nicknamed the ‘kissing disease,’ mono can be spread through contact with an infected individual’s saliva. For example, individuals can get it by sharing a drink with an infected patient, even if they are asymptomatic. Mono can be a horrible experience, but it does not usually lead to severe complications. After several weeks of rest, the patient usually gets better and can return to normal activities. However, a small percentage of cases can lead to further health issues, some of which are quite severe.
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The main symptom of jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the skin, especially around the eyes. Sometimes the skin is more green than yellow, and sometimes it is itchy. Jaundice is caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin in the blood; bilirubin is a compound released by the breakdown of red blood cells. This condition is very common in babies, but in older children and adults, it often indicates serious problems with the liver. Mono typically affects the liver, but it only leads to serious liver issues in rare cases. If the skin of a mono patient turns yellow, they should go to the doctor to get blood tests for liver enzymes.
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Anemia is a lack of hemoglobin in the blood. It can cause fatigue, a fast heart rate, and shortness of breath. It is often caused by a lack of iron in the diet or blood loss. Anemia is typically diagnosed through a blood test called a complete blood count. This test shows the concentration of red blood cells, white blood cells, hematocrit, hemoglobin, and platelets in a patient’s blood. Mono can cause a loss of red blood cells and hemoglobin. This complication is very uncommon, but it can happen. Someone who recovers from mono but has ongoing fatigue or dizziness should see a doctor to ask about getting blood tests done.
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The Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mono, can cause hepatitis as well. Hepatitis caused by this virus is usually short-lasting and mild, but sometimes it can damage the liver. When someone has this condition, their liver becomes inflamed and may not work correctly. Certain blood tests can indicate whether the liver is malfunctioning. Yellowing of the eyes and skin can accompany problems with the liver, and this symptom can be used to help diagnose the problem. Other symptoms include urine that is darker than normal and diarrhea. If the patient becomes dehydrated because of this, they may have to go to the hospital. Otherwise, the best course of action is simply to wait it out. Also, birth control pills should not be taken if a patient has hepatitis, especially when linked to mono.
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The Epstein-Barr virus can also cause meningitis in rare cases. This is more likely to happen if the patient already had problems with their immune system before getting infected. For example, a patient who is HIV-positive may be susceptible to complications. Viral meningitis, which is the type that can be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, is characterized by inflammation in the brain and spine. It is not as serious as the bacterial version of the disease, but it can still lead to hospitalization. Symptoms of meningitis include headache and neck stiffness, as well as fever, nausea, and vomiting.
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Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which the concentration of platelets in the blood is too low. Platelets are the component of blood that helps form clots after an injury. A low platelet count can lead to excessive bleeding and difficulty healing from wounds. It can also lead to internal bleeding, which is risky because the patient might not realize they are bleeding. Mono rarely causes this condition, but it is still a potential complication. Sometimes it happens when mono causes damage to the spleen. Thrombocytopenia is diagnosed based on a complete blood count. It does not always require medical treatment. If it is really bad, the patient may need a blood transfusion or a splenectomy, which is the removal of the spleen.