Reactivated EBV: Is this virus the cause of your symptoms?
Fatigue, joint pain, headaches, brain fog, skin rashes, and weakness are some of the symptoms of reactivation of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). About 90% of the world's population carries the Epstein Barr Virus which belongs to the herpesvirus family. An EBV infection frequently occurs in childhood and is associated minimal symptoms, whereas in adolescents or adults, EBV infection can develop into infectious mononucleosis and produce its characteristic symptoms of fatigue, sore throat, tonsilitis, swollen lymph nodes, skin rash, enlarged spleen, and fever. While rare, complications of EBV infection can occur and include spleen rupture, meningoencephalitis, and myocarditis.
EBV Reactivation: What causes it?
After infection with EBV, the virus becomes dormant (inactive) in your immune system's memory cells, called B cells. A healthy immune system is typically able to keep the EBV from reactivating. However, a weakened immune system, stress, immunosuppressant medications, or hormonal changes such as menopause can lead to EBV reactivation. Symptoms of reactivation include sore throat, extreme fatigue, headache, rash, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged tonsils, enlarged spleen, and enlarged liver.
A defective immune response to the EBV has also been associated with a higher risk of developing of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as certain cancers. EBV is also believed to linked to chronic fatigue syndrome as well as certain cancers.
Rarely, an individual infected with EBV can later develop Chronic Active Epstein Barr Virus infection, a progressive illness with symptoms ranging from minor (fever, swollen lymph nodes, anemia, enlarged liver and spleen) to severe (nerve damage, liver failure, or pneumonia) and which requires prompt medical attention.
EBV Reactivation: Are my symptoms related to EBV reactivation or something else? Since the symptoms of EBV reactivation (see above) are similar to those found in other illnesses, including Covid-19 & Long-haul Covid, it's important to notify your healthcare provider of your symptoms. Laboratory testing can identify antibodies in your blood to EBV which may determine if you have an acute, recent or past infection. Blood work will also look at cellular blood counts and liver function to determine the impact of an EBV infection on your immune system and liver.
EBV Reactivation: How to reduce your chance of experiencing a reactivation.
Steps to reduce your chance of an EBV reactivation include getting enough sleep, managing your stress levels, as well as eating a diet that reduces inflammation and supports your immune system. Whether you have underlying health issues or an unhealthy lifestyle, you can make changes to optimize your immune health. Ultimately, keeping your immune system in optimal condition requires the individualized approach that functional medicine provides. To learn more about how you can improve your immune health, please contact us.
Gold, JE. et al. Investigation of Long COVID Prevalence and Its Relationship to Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation. Pathogens. 2021 Jun; 10(6): 763.
Kerr, J. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation and therapeutic inhibitors. J Clin Pathol.
Loebel, M et al, Deficient EBV-specific B- and T-cell response in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 15;9(1):e85387.
Niller, HH et al. Epigenetic dysregulation of epstein-barr virus latency and development of autoimmune disease. Adv Exp Med Biol.2011;711:82-102.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord, Masachusetts ~