Most cases of nocardiosis begin as pulmonary infections that develop into lung abscesses. Symptoms may include chest pain, cough, bloody sputum, sweats, chills, weakness, lack of appetite, Weight loss and difficult or labored breathing. Nocardiosis symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
The infection may spread through the bloodstream resulting in abscesses in the brain, where they are very serious indeed, or less frequently and less seriously, in the kidney, intestines or other organs. Approximately one-third of reported cases develop brain abscesses if left untreated or if treatment is delayed. Symptoms associated with brain abscesses may include severe Headache and focal, sensory and motor disturbances.
Skin abscesses occur in approximately one-third of all cases of nocardiosis, and are usually found scattered across the hand, chest wall and buttocks. In patients whose immune system is suppressed due to HIV infection or to corticosteroid or cytotoxic drugs, ulcerative colitis, malignancy of the lymph system or a variety of other diseases, progression of the disease can be very rapid.
Nocardiosis may last from several months to years. It is essential that the infection be diagnosed and differentiated from tuberculosis and pneumonia.