Mononucleosis (often called "mono") is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
Symptoms of mono include:
Symptoms in young children are generally mild, while symptoms in adolescents and young adults tend to be more severe.
Mono is not spread as easily as some other viruses, such as the common cold. The mono virus is found in saliva and mucus. It is usually passed from one person to another through kissing, which is why it is often called the kissing disease. However, mono can also be passed through exposure to a cough, sneeze or through sharing food utensils (such as drinking glasses, spoons and forks) with someone who has mono. Signs of mono usually develop 4 to 6 weeks after you're exposed to the virus. Generally, people only get mono once. It's most common among people 15 to 35 years of age.
Your doctor will probably first ask you some questions about your symptoms and then may do blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. One common test used to diagnose mono is called the Monospot test. Sometimes other blood tests are needed if the results of the Monospot test aren't clear.
No, there isn't a cure for mono. But the virus will go away on its own. Symptoms usually last about 4 weeks.
The main goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms. The following list includes tips on treatment:
Antibiotics are not effective against mono. Mono is caused by a virus and antibiotics don't work against viruses. If you have a bacterial infection in addition to having mono (such as strep throat), your doctor may give you an antibiotic to treat that infection.
Avoid sports, physical activities or exercise of any kind until your doctor tells you it's safe. Moving around too much puts you at risk of rupturing your spleen, especially if it is enlarged. You need to avoid physical activities and contact sports for about 3 to 4 weeks after you've had mono.
Sometimes. The main complication with mono is the enlargement of the spleen. The spleen is like a large gland. It's located in the upper part of your abdomen on the left side. It helps filter your blood. In severe cases of mono, the spleen can rupture (tear open).
Although a ruptured spleen is rare in people who have mono, it's wise to be aware of the signs and call your doctor right away if you notice any of them. Signs of a ruptured spleen include sharp pain in the left upper part of your abdomen (under the left chest), feeling lightheaded, feeling confused, blurred vision and fainting.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff