Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that mostly affects the lungs but can also involve other parts of the body.
Although curable, patients have to stay on medication for a long period of time, ranging from 6-9 months. Alcohol and smoking use can increase your risk of getting TB. Tuberculosis is a top ten contributor to deaths around the world, mostly affecting developing countries like India.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Early symptoms are often compounded by other illnesses.
However, latent TB does not show any symptoms.
Transmission of Tuberculosis
The disease spreads from person to person through air and contact. The tiny droplets of germs are transmitted when someone sneezes, coughs, talks, or sings. However, the germs do not stay on surfaces and contamination is not possible by shaking hands or sharing food items.
Types of Tuberculosis
Broadly, there are two kinds of Tuberculosis: Latent and Active.
- Latent Tuberculosis: In the latent phase, the immune system is actively fighting against Tuberculosis infections and doesn’t affect unless the person has a compromised immune system. The person will not show any symptoms and will not be contagious. The infection, however, is still alive and can become active at any time. Medicine is advised accordingly by doctors based on previous medical history.
- Active Tuberculosis: The infection is often drug resistance, making it hard to medicate. A standard 6-month course of antimicrobial drugs is a starting treatment to onset TB which is later treated based on the complications that arise.
Tuberculosis Tests and Diagnosis
- Skin Test: It is also known as the Mantoux tuberculin skin test. A small amount of fluid is injected into the skin of the lower arm. After 2 or 3 days, the portion is checked for any reaction, a doctor upon examination can confirm if the result is TB positive. However, it can also give a false positive or a false negative. The skin test is supplemented with other tests for a proper diagnosis.
- Blood Test: The blood of the person is mixed with a small TB protein to measure the response. Based on the results, doctors can suggest for an X-Ray or a sputum test to know the type of infection.
- X-Ray: To check for any changes in the lungs. Lungs show a typical pattern of shadows that can help in diagnosis for a physician.
- AFB Test: Collection of sputum to check for any infections in that comes up with a cough
Unlike other bacterial infections, the treatment of TB does not involve routine antibiotics and smaller regimes.
TB treatment lasts for 6-9 months depending on various factors. The treatment course is to be followed very strictly and should be completed to avoid recurrence. Recurrence of TB is difficult to treat, due to resistance to typical medicines prescribed.
Tuberculosis Medication Side-Effects
- Upset stomach,
- Loss of appetite,
- Painful or swollen joints
The first and foremost step to avoid TB is to get a BCG vaccination at a young age. People can get TB infection despite getting a vaccination. Latent infection can be treated with a shorter duration of drugs to prevent it from developing into an active one.
Those with the infection, latent or active, should ensure to take proper medication and avoid going out in crowded places. The use of masks is important so that the infectious droplets do not spread to other people or be released in the air. Always consult a registered physician if you have any of the related symptoms.
Still, have questions? Drop a comment and our Medicine expert will get back to you with an answer.