A high temperature without a clear cause is called fever of unknown origin (FUO). A FUO is an intermittent temperature of at least 101°F. It has to have been noted for over three weeks. It also has to have at least a week’s worth of attempts to find the cause.
There are many rare causes of a high temperature. The following list includes just a few of the uncommon causes:
- Unusual infections, such as:
- Obscure infections (eg, prostatitis , sinusitis , hidden abscesses)
- Collagen vascular (connective tissue, autoimmune) diseases (eg, rheumatoid arthritis , lupus )
- Inflammatory diseases (eg, sarcoidosis , Crohn’s disease )
- Cancer (eg, lymphoma, leukemia , kidney cancer , liver cancer )
- Drug reactions (eg, antibiotics, epilepsy medicines, immune globulin, antipsychotics, antihistamines)
- Hereditary metabolic diseases
- Hormone disturbances (eg, hyperthyroidism )
- Brain disorders that affect temperature regulation (eg, tumors, strokes )
The following factors increase your chance of developing a FUO:
If you experience any of these, do not assume it is due to a FUO. A fever is a very common indication of many problems. They can be both serious and trivial. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.
- Elevated temperature by thermometer reading
- Aching all over
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You can help by taking your temperature several times a day. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist.
The first efforts after the evaluation will be to narrow the possibilities. This is done by examining the circumstances under which the fever began. Were you traveling abroad? Were you hospitalized? Is your immune system damaged? What medicines are you currently taking?
Many different tests may be indicated at some point including:
- Exhaustive studies of blood, urine, and all other bodily products
- Exhaustive imaging studies: x-rays , CT and MRI scans, ultrasound examinations
- Nuclear medicine studies
- Endoscopies of the lungs, stomach and intestines , sinuses
- Tissue biopsies
There is no treatment for a FUO until the underlying disease is identified. When its cause is discovered, treatment will follow.
There are so many causes for a FUO. But, you can take steps to stay healthy. This is very important when you travel abroad. Take all of the preventative measures recommended by the public health department.
- Reviewer: Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
- Review Date: 02/2012 -
- Update Date: 00/22/2012 -