Epstein Barr Virus: Symptoms, Testing, Treatment
Published on April 21, 2019 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is epidemic. Over 90% of adults have antibodies that show they have a current or past EBV infection. Acute infections are often asymptomatic. In 30-50% of adolescents with immunocompromise, EBV manifests as mononucleosis. Primary EBV infections occur at a young age for most. EBV can be transmitted easily through saliva.
EBV has a strong connection with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and cancer of the throat. It’s been implicated in the development of a number of other diseases, in particular, autoimmune diseases. Epstein barr virus can cause the following conditions:
- Viral meningitis
- Swelling of the brain
- Swelling of the eye nerve
- Swelling of the spinal cord
- Facial paralysis
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Sleep disorders
- Uncoordinated muscle movements
- Diseases due to excessive white blood cell production
- Scarring of the lung tissue
- Swelling of the pancreas
- Swelling of the heart muscle
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
EBV has not been proven to cause, but is highly correlated with the following conditions:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Type I Diabetes
- Liver disease
Acute EBV infections are most commonly characterized by fatigue, lethargy, and weakness. You may also experience swollen lymph nodes. EBV can lie dormant for years after an acute infection and be reactivated during periods of high stress or immunosuppression.
Testing for Epstein Barr Virus
Bloodwork can identify if you are experiencing a current acute EBV infection, reactivation of a previous infection, or simply if you have been exposed in the past but aren’t showing any signs of current activation. A functional medicine practitioner can interpret your antibody level results.
Treatment for Epstein Barr Virus
If you have an acute infection or suffer from elevated antibody levels, indicating a reactivation of the virus, there are a number of treatment options. I prescribe patients a range of anti-viral supplements and herbs that support the immune system in combating the viral load. Lowering your viral load will improve your energy level and relieve stress on your immune system. This can be a key piece of putting autoimmune conditions into remission. Those suffering from other chronic conditions such as recurrent gut infections (SIBO, candida), mold illness, CIRS, or Lyme, also benefit from testing and treating for EBV which can be a complicating factor preventing healing from these conditions.
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