Mold Symptoms Overviewby Alana Morein
Thousands of different species of mold grow in our homes and workplaces, most of which are perfectly harmless to our health. Certain other molds, however, may cause a variety of different health symptoms, ranging from irritating to life-threatening. Some molds produce potentially harmful byproducts called mycotoxins, approximately 200 of which have been identified so far. But even molds that don’t produce mycotoxins can still have harmful effects on the health.
When people think of mold symptoms, they typically think of black mold. But, besides this most commonly known of molds, also known as stachybotrys, many other potentially hazardous molds exist, including alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium, epicoccum, fusarium, helminthosporium, and penicillium.
Exposure to mold can occur by inhaling, ingesting or touching it. Mold symptoms may appear in the form of several different types (and degrees) of health problems, including mold allergy symptoms, tissue irritation, infection and toxic mold symptoms. The seriousness of a person’s mold symptoms depends on the type of mold, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s health profile.
Mold Allergy Symptoms
The most common mold symptoms are allergic reactions caused by inhaling mold spores. Fortunately these particular mold symptoms, which affect around 15 million Americans, also tend to be the mildest.
Mold allergies are most often associated with the following symptoms:
- asthma symptoms or difficulty breathing
- dark circles beneath the eyes
- eyes crusting, red, watering or swollen (conjunctivitis)
- hay fever symptoms or seasonal symptoms (spring to late fall with a peak in summer)
- headaches or sinus headaches
- itchy or irritated eyes, nose, throat, skin or lungs
- nasal congestion or sinus congestion
- postnasal drip
- runny nose
One clue that allergy symptoms are mold-related and not pollen-related is if symptoms persist even after the first frost appears.
More Serious Mold Symptoms
In heavy enough concentrations, fragments of mold, mycotoxins and mold spores can even cause symptoms in people who don’t have a mold allergy, especially if they spend a lot of time in an environment contaminated by mold.
Such advanced mold symptoms include:
- abdominal pain
- adrenal irregularities
- allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the mucus membranes)
- anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD)
- appetite loss, weight loss or sudden weight change (either loss or gain)
- asthma exacerbation and asthma attacks
- breathing difficulty or respiratory distress (including coughing, sneezing, wheezing, sinusitis and shortness of breath)
- body jerking or twitching inadvertently
- boils on the neck
- bronchitis or chronic bronchitis
- bruising and scarring easily
- burning in the lungs and throat (often misdiagnosed as acid reflux, to which it feels similar)
- coated tongue or taste of dirt in the mouth
- coughing up blood, mucus or black residue
- difficulty swallowing
- digestive issues (including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain and stomach lesions)
- ear infection, ear pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or issues with balance
- facial numbness or inadvertent movement in the face
- fatigue or chronic fatigue
- food allergy symptoms
- fungal infection
- hair loss
- headaches or chronic headaches or migraines
- heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat
- immune dysfunction
- leaky gut syndrome
- memory loss (short- and long-term)
- mental fogginess, loss of concentration and confusion
- mood swings and personality disorders
- mylar flush (intermittent facial flushing)
- nails yellowing, becoming brittle or showing white marks underneath
- nausea or vomiting
- neurological disorders or nervous disorders
- numbness in the extremities
- open sores on the skin
- pain in the extremities
- pain in the organs (particularly bladder, kidney, liver or spleen)
- pain or stiffness in the muscles and joints
- painful urination or dark-colored urine
- rectal bleeding
- reproductive issues (including menstrual irregularities, miscarriage and infertility)
- sexual dysfunction
- sinus infection or chronic sinus infection
- skin rashes or hives, bleeding skin lesions
- sleeping issues (including drooling during sleep and profuse sweating, particularly night sweats originating from the head)
- slurred speech
- sore throat
- swollen glands (particularly under the armpits and in the neck)
- swollen lymph nodes
- thyroid issues
- vision problems
Medically, if a person suffers at least 8 of any of these above-named symptoms, they may be diagnosed as having systemic Mycotoxicosis.
“Late Stage” Mold Symptoms
In extreme cases of heavy or excessive exposure to mold, the following symptoms can occur:
- brain damage or brain tissue destruction
- cancer (particularly esophagus cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and lung cancer)
- heart attack
- lung diseases and disorders (including aspergilliosis, bleeding lungs, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lungs)
And in the most extreme of cases, exposure to mold can lead to death.
Those who are most at risk of developing mold symptoms upon some measure of exposure are infants and children, the elderly, people with respiratory disorders, allergies, asthma, emphysema or other sensitivities, and those with a compromised immune system, including people with HIV, organ transplant recipients and patients under chemotherapy.
If you or anyone in your family exhibits any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you see a doctor immediately. Even if the symptoms turn out not to be associated with exposure to mold, they may be the result of any number of other conditions or illnesses.
The silver lining on this dark, moldy cloud is that mold symptoms typically disappear once the mold contamination is eradicated.