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Complications of Glandular Fever

author image R. Y. Langham, Ph.D.
R. Y. Langham served as a senior writer for "The Herald" magazine from 1996-99. Langham holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Fisk University, a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University and a Ph.D in family psychology from Capella University. Dr. R.Y. Langham published her first psychological thriller in September 2011. It can be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and Lulu.com.
Complications of Glandular Fever
A doctor uses a flashlight to look into the throat of a patient. Photo Credit Du├ťan Zidar/iStock/Getty Images


Glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis is a type of viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, swollen glands and fatigue. Most cases of glandular fever are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The Epstein-Barr virus is a common virus that is spread through direct contact such as kissing, coughs, sneezes and/or sharing eating and drinking utensils. According to the website NHS Choices, approximately 90 percent of adults contract glandular fever each year. There is no specific treatment for glandular fever. Complications of glandular fever are rare, but it is important to know the risks associated with this condition.

Ruptured Spleen

Many people who develop glandular fever experience an inflamed spleen. An inflamed spleen usually does not cause immediate health concerns, but it can increase the risk of a ruptured spleen. According to the website NHS Choices, a ruptured spleen is rare and only occurs in approximately 1 in a 1,000 people. People who are recovering from glandular fever may experience a ruptured spleen when they participate in physical activities or sports before they are completely healed. According to FamilyDoctor, symptoms of a ruptured spleen may include sharp pain in the left upper part of your abdomen, confusion, blurred vision and/or fainting. It is important to avoid physical exertion for at least a month after developing glandular fever present to avoid life-threatening complications such as internal bleeding. It is important to seek emergency medical care if severe abdominal pain suddenly arises.

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Liver Problems

A small number of people may develop liver problems after contracting glandular fever, according to the MayoClinic.com. A rare, but serious complication associated with glandular fever is hepatitis. Some people may develop hepatitis and/or jaundice, a condition that causes yellowing of the eyes and skin when the Epstein-Barr virus attacks, irritates and inflames the liver. According to MedlinePlus, some people may not have any symptoms of hepatitis, but others may have loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements, stomach pain and jaundice. Most of time, hepatitis subsides without medication, but sometimes, medical treatment is needed to reduce the inflammation.

Secondary Infections

A rare complication associated with glandular fever is a secondary infection, according to the website NHS Choices. Some people may experience a secondary infection when Epstein-Barr virus spreads to other parts of the body such as the heart and lungs. Secondary infections that may develop from glandular fever include pneumonia, an infection of the lung, meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord membranes and inflammation of the heart. Secondary infections typically occur in people who have a weakened immune system. People with autoimmune disorders or those who are undergoing high-dose chemotherapy treatments are particularly susceptible to secondary infections. Individuals at risk for glandular fever complications may be admitted to the hospital for observation so that they can be promptly treated for secondary infections, if any should arise.

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