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Can Mold Harm Your Brain?
It is well established that exposure to mold increases the risk for respiratory disorders, but it could also impact brain health and the risk for cognitive decline. there is evidence from case studies to suggest that mold exposure may contribute to cognitive impairment in a subset of susceptible people.
Mold illness is associated with allergic reactions that mimic seasonal allergies. Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, watery eyes, and skin irritation are the predominant symptoms. Mold is also known to cause asthma and life-threatening primary and secondary infections in immune-compromised patients that have been exposed. Studies show how toxic mold exposure can affect the brain and lead to cognitive and emotional impairments.
It has been difficult to establish whether there is a direct link because not every person who is exposed to mold will experience cognitive symptoms. Several possibilities have been put forth to try to explain how mold exposure could affect cognition, which may provide some insight into why some people are at higher risk.
- Some types of mold are capable of producing toxic substances called mycotoxins. Studies in animals have shown that some of these toxins can get into the brain and cause damage by interfering with metabolism and inducing inflammation.
- Mold spores act as irritants, which can trigger the body to mount an immune response. This can lead to inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the brain can impair cognitive function, and in the case of chronic inflammation, this can lead to long-lasting cognitive impairment.
From this perspective, the people who develop brain inflammation following mold exposure are the ones most likely to experience cognitive decline. People who experience inflammation and delirium following mold exposure appear to be at the highest risk for long-lasting cognitive impairment.
Toxic Mold Exposure: Long-Term Effects
This problematic has also been linked to serious health effects like:
- Memory loss
- Trouble concentrating
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Another source of irritation from mold exposure comes from substances known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). The effects of these compounds are not completely understood and research is still in the early stages.
Exposure to mVOCs from molds can irritate the eyes and respiratory system and has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nasal irritation, and nausea. These volatile organic compounds are produced through fungal metabolism and are released directly into the air, often giving off strong or unpleasant odors.
Toxic black mold can release spores that if ingested or inhaled, can cause a range of unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms in humans that can include nausea, vomiting, extreme headaches, and bleeding in the lungs and nose.
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