Mononucleosis has the symptoms equivalent to general cold and cough. However, the disease may progress in some conditions which are serious and life-threatening. A patient may only die from those complications when they are not properly managed.
Can You Die From Mono?
Death is a rare possibility of the patient suffering from mononucleosis. The symptoms of the mononucleosis are mild and subside within a few weeks after the presentation. However, the virus does not leave the body and always remain in the body in the dormant stage. Mostly, the patient once infected with Epstein Barr virus does not have the recurrence of mononucleosis as the immune system of the body keeps a check on the growth of virus; but in some immunocompromised conditions such as pregnancy, HIV infection or organ transplantation, the viral infection may recur.
The patient may not die with mononucleosis rather there are some serious life-threatening complications that may prove fatal. Mononucleosis increases the risk of cancer and other lymphoproliferative disorder such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Epstein Barr infection alters the level of liver enzymes and may lead to hepatitis and jaundice.
Splenomegaly is another serious complication and spleen rupture may result in fatal consequences. Anemia, thrombocytopenia, endocarditis and neurological disorders are other fatal complications of mononucleosis.
Although mononucleosis, in its general form, does not cause severe complications and the symptoms are generally equivalent to the symptoms of cold and cough. However, in some circumstances, the disease may transform into a more serious condition. These conditions may be life-threatening and may sometime require immediate medical intervention. Following are the complications due to mononucleosis.
Enlarged Spleen. Spleen is the organ that filters the damaged blood cells. When there is a rise in the blood cells, as seen in mononucleosis, the size of spleen becomes enlarged; when the patient with enlarged spleen indulges in contact games such as wrestling, the risk of spleen rupture increases.
Swollen Tonsils. The tonsils of the patient are swollen to an extent that it interferes in the respiration. The patient suffering from such a condition has difficulty breathing.
Hepatitis. Patient with mononucleosis are at increased risk of hepatitis and is one of the causes of fatalities due to this condition. The condition is diagnosed with hepatomegaly and altered enzyme concentration.
High Fever. If the infection due to Epstein Barr virus is not managed, it may lead to very high fever. High fever may lead to serious consequences and causes severe fatigue and weakness.
Jaundice. Jaundice is the condition characterized by the presence of yellow color of eyes and skin. Patient suffering from mononucleosis may have acute hepatitis which may progress to jaundice. This may also lead to liver dysfunction.
Anemia. Although rarely reported, the patient suffering from mononucleosis is at high risk of developing acute hemolytic anemia. The condition is characterized by low RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit along with positive direct Coombs test.
Neurological Disorders. Various neurological disorders may occur if the infection has spread to the central nervous system. Mononucleosis may lead to meningitis, seizures, encephalitis and Bell’s palsy. The patient may also feel numbness and tingling sensation.
Thrombocytopenia. It is a rare complication of mononucleosis; however, various cases with mononucleosis induced thrombocytopenia are reported in the literature. Thrombocytopenia is the condition with a low platelet level, which increases the risk of bleeding and hemorrhage.
Cancer. Research has concluded the link between mononucleosis and cancer. Patient with confirmed mononucleosis and the presence of Epstein Barr virus are at higher risk of developing cancer. The risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma increases in patients who have a history of mononucleosis.
Post-Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder. In the patients suffering from mononucleosis or Epstein Barr infection, organ transplantation increases the risk of developing lymphoma or other lymphoproliferative disorder.
Generally, mononucleosis does not result in death. However, in some conditions, the disease further progresses to cause serious complications that are life-threatening. The life-threatening complications include splenomegaly and spleen rupture, meningitis, endocarditis, jaundice and hepatitis, cancer, thrombocytopenia, and acute anemia.
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