What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis also known as TB is a disease that mainly affects the lungs and is highly infectious in nature. As per the WHO, it is one of the top 10 reasons for death around the globe. However, having said that it is also helpful to know that it is a disease which is curable and preventable under conducive circumstances.
There are mainly two types of tuberculosis, which has been discussed below in brief for your understanding.
- Active TB : Active tuberculosis results in symptoms that are most often related to your respiratory system. The most common symptom includes coughing up blood and have difficulties in breathing. More symptoms will be discussed in details further.
- Latent TB : Latent Tuberculosis is a situation in which a person is infected with the bacteria but does not experience any sort of symptoms because of it. This bacterium can stay in the dormant stage for a number of years before actually developing into an active condition.
Apart from blood in the cough and difficulty in breathing, there are other tuberculosis symptoms that you must be aware of.
- Weakness or Fatigue : Unexplained and prolonged weakness despite following a healthy lifestyle.
- Weight Loss : A sudden weight loss despite taking all precautions
- Loss of Appetite : When there is loss of appetite and you do not feel like eating food
- Chills : If you are experiencing chills in the body
- Fever : When the body temperature has been on the higher side and is not becoming better
- Sweating at night : If you have been waking up in the middle of the night with your neck or back sweating
Having any of the above for a prolonged period can be an indication of signs and symptoms of tuberculosis and hence it is advisable to consult a doctor at the earliest and take precautions accordingly.
One of the complications of tuberculosis is that apart from the lungs, it can also affect other organs such as spine, kidney, bone marrow and even the brain. The symptoms will differ based on which organ is affected.
Who is at Risk?
TB as a disease is such that it can happen to any person living anywhere, however, there are certain diseases or symptoms which makes the individual suffering from it more prone to the risk factors of tuberculosis.
- Weak Immune System : Apart from a poor diet, previously history of diseases like Flu, Measles, AIDS and Cancer among others can leave you with a weak immunity.
- Use of Tobacco & Substance Abuse : Continuous Smoking, Drinking and taking Drugs also severely affects the immune system.
- Malnourished : Caused by lack of proper Nutrition and a poor diet
- Diabetes : A High blood sugar level means your body is not able to produce the insulin it should be.
- Medication that affects the Immune System : If you have been taking medicines for other diseases which have also weakened the immunity system in the process.
- Contact with an infected person : Tuberculosis is a disease which is infectious and hence coming in contact with a person with the infection disease which all transfer it to another person.
There is a bacteria known as ‘mycobacterium tuberculosis’ which is the main reason that causes Tuberculosis. This tuberculosis bacteria are usually transmitted through infected droplets in the air. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, speaks or sings they can transmit the bacteria to another person. TB may not affect a person who has a strong immunity system despite being present in them.
How is Tuberculosis diagnosed?
There are a number of Diagnostic Tests for Tuberculosis which is helpful.
- Blood Test : most doctors prefer getting a tuberculosis blood test done especially for people with certain health conditions.
- Skin Test : in this test a small amount of protein is injected to detect the bacteria.
- Chest X-Ray : if the above two tests are positive then you will be asked to get this done to check for tiny spots in the lungs.
- Other Tests : there are other tuberculosis test done on the mucus or the sputum to check for tuberculosis diagnosis.
How is Tuberculosis treated?
For a Tuberculosis treatment, it is best to consult your primary care doctor who will then further refer you to a Pulmonologist if needed.
- Treatment for Active TB : Active TB is most commonly treated with a combination of antibacterial tuberculosis medications for a period of six to 12 months. The most common treatment for active TB is Isoniazid (INH) in combination with three other drugs, Rifampin, Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol.
- Treatment for Latent TB : Latent TB is most commonly treated with a course of antibiotics. The Pulmonologist or TB specialist may prescribe a combination of tuberculosis medications like Rifapentine (RPT) and Isoniazid (INH) for three months or Isoniazid (INH) by itself for six months.
Treatment for Tuberculosis is started only on the advise by the doctor after conducting a number of tests and based on those test results. It is best to maintain a distance from people when you are being treated as it is possible that you might infect someone else because of it. Keep in touch with your doctor for any doubts or queries that you might have regarding this disease or your treatment.
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How can Tuberculosis be prevented?
Some of the ways to prevent Tuberculosis are:
- Tuberculosis vaccine called the BCG Vaccine
- Reduce or completely quit Smoking, Drinking and taking Drugs as they severely affect multiple organs in the body and leave you with a weak immune system.
- Ensure you have a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle in place that covers all the required vitamins and nutrients that the body needs.
- If you feel the slightest on uneasiness in the body, immediately consult a doctor and do not resort to self-diagnosis as it may end up doing more harm than good.