Mononucleosis

Book an Appointment

Overview

Overview. Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is often called the kissing disease. The virus that causes mono (Epstein-Barr virus) is spread through saliva. You can get it through kissing, but you can also be exposed by sharing a glass or food utensils with someone who has mono.

Mononucleosis classically presents with fever, lymphadenopathy, and tonsillar pharyngitis. The term “infectious mononucleosis” was first used in the 1920s to describe a group of students with a similar pharyngeal illness and blood laboratory findings of lymphocytosis and atypical mononuclear cells. It was only later that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was established as the cause of mononucleosis after an exposed healthcare worker developed a positive heterophile test.

Symptoms

Fatigue.

Sore throat, perhaps misdiagnosed as strep throat, that doesn't get better after treatment with antibiotics.

Fever.

Swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits.

Swollen tonsils.

Headache.

Skin rash.

Soft, swollen spleen.

Causes

Over 90% of mono cases are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Other viruses and certain infections may also bring on the illness. The symptoms can develop because of:


Adenovirus.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Rubella.

Toxoplasmosis.

Risk factors

The following groups have a higher risk for getting mono:

young people between the ages of 15 and 30

students

medical interns

nurses

caregivers

people who take medications that suppress the immune system

Calendar Schedule

Have a medical question?

We are available to help you with all your questions and concerns.

Complications

Mono is typically not serious. In some cases, people who have mono get secondary infections such as strep throat, sinus infections, or tonsillitis. In rare cases, some people may develop the following complications:

Enlarged spleen

You should wait at least 1 month before doing any vigorous activities, lifting heavy objects, or playing contact sports to avoid rupturing your spleen, which may be swollen from the infection.

Talk to your doctor about when you can return to your normal activities.

A ruptured spleen in people who have mono is rare, but it is a life-threatening emergency. Call your doctor immediately if you have mono and experience a sharp, sudden pain in the upper left part of your abdomen.

Inflammation of the liver

Hepatitis (liver inflammation) or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) may occasionally occur in people who have mono.

Rare complications

According to the Mayo Clinic, mono can also cause some of these extremely rare complications:

anemia, which is  decrease in your red blood cell count

thrombocytopenia, which is a decrease in platelets, the part of your blood that begins the clotting process

inflammation of the heart

complications that involve the nervous system, such as meningitis or Guillain-Barré syndrome

swollen tonsils that can obstruct breathing

Prevention

There is no vaccine to protect against infectious mononucleosis. You can help protect yourself by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or personal items, like toothbrushes, with people who have infectious mononucleosis.