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TB or Tuberculosis is one of the deadliest lung diseases of the past century. It is an infectious infection that usually attacks your lungs. TB can also spread to other parts of your body including your brain, stomach, uterus, and spine.
TB is caused by a type of bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In this article, we have listed everything about TB, which you need to know. Read about causes, symptoms, precautions, prevention, and treatment.
What is TB?
Tuberculosis or commonly known as TB is a bacterial infection that attacks and destroys the various tissues present in our body. It is spread by bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is spread by air. Therefore, it made TB a severe contagious disease.
This bacterium attacks individuals who have a weak immune system, especially those with a serious life-threatening illness such as cancer or AIDS. Mostly this disease affects the lungs, and airways, but can also affect bones, kidneys, liver, heart, etc.
Types of TB or Tuberculosis
A TB infection does not always mean that you will get severely ill. There are two types of TB that humans usually suffer from.
In the case of latent TB, there may be germs in your body, but your immune system is too strong to cause any disease. Since you do not have symptoms, it cannot spread to other individuals through the air. Therefore you are not contagious. But the infection remains in the body and may suddenly become active one day. And, when you are at high risk for reactivation, assume that you have an abnormal chest X-ray or that your immune system is weak. Then your doctor will give you medicines to prevent active TB.
Active TB is a disease in which TB bacteria rapidly multiply and attack various organs of the body. Also, this is a contagious condition, and the patient should be treated carefully. Typical symptoms of active TB are cough, phlegm, chest pain, weakness, weight loss, fever, chills, and night sweats. Anyone with an active pulmonary TB disease can spread TB by infectious particles that cough in the air.
Symptoms of TB or Tuberculosis
There are some severe symptoms of tuberculosis. If you have any symptoms or have the following symptoms together, a doctor should be contacted. If you have latent TB, then you may not have any symptoms, but there are some visible symptoms of active TB which we have listed below!
- Cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
- Coughing up blood
- Pain in chest
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Causes of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that spreads from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air. This can occur when someone takes an active form of tuberculosis cough, speaking, sneezing, spitting, laughing, or singing.
Although tuberculosis is contagious, it is not very easy to catch. You are more likely to get tuberculosis from someone whom you live or work with rather than a stranger. You need to be in close contact with an infected person for a long time to catch TB.
HIV is another major cause of TB. A person suffering from HIV already has a suppressed immune system, making it difficult for the body to control the TB bacteria. So, people suffering from HIV are more likely to get TB.
Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are seen when the antibiotic fails to kill all the bacteria that targets it. Bacteria that survive become resistant to that particular drug. There are some bacteria that have developed resistance to the most commonly used treatments, such as isoniazid and rifampin.
Risk Factors Regarding Tuberculosis
Well, you may be more likely to get TB if you come into the following risk factors.
- A friend, colleague, or family member has active TB
- You are part of a group in which TB is more likely to spread, or you work or live with someone
- If you work or live in a hospital or nursing home
- Have HIV
- You have diabetes
- Suffering from severe kidney disease
- You are a health care worker for patients at high risk of TB
- Head and neck cancer
- Treatment of cancer like chemotherapy
- Low body weight and poor nutrition
- Medicines for an organ transplant
- You are a smoker
- Some medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis
- You drink alcohol regularly
Diagnosis of TB
There are some ways and tests to diagnose this disease.
The doctor will inject a small amount of fluid into the skin of your lower hand. After 2 or 3 days, check for swelling in your arm. If your results are positive, then you probably have TB bacteria. But you can also get a false positive. If you have received a tuberculosis vaccine called Bacillus Calumet-Guérin (BCG), the test may say that when you do not actually have TT, you will have TB. If you are not satisfied then you can get this exam more than once.
These tests will tell you if your infection is latent or active. If you get a positive skin or blood test, your doctor will confirm which type you have. It is the most-trusted method of TB diagnosis.
Chest X-Ray or CT Scan
These types of tests will scan your lungs to see the changes, whether you have congestion or phlegm. Acid-fast bacillus (AFB) tests for TB bacteria in your sputum, which is the mucus that occurs when you cough. This is the final stage of TB diagnosis. These reports state to you how much affected your lung actually is.
Treatment of Tuberculosis
Your treatment will depend on how severe your infection is. Whatever your infection type, it is important to end up taking all your medications, even if you feel better. If you quit soon, the bacteria can become resistant to these drugs.
For Latent TB Patients
The doctor will prescribe medication to kill the bacteria so that the infection is no longer active. You may be given isoniazid, rifapentine, or rifampin, either alone or combined. You have to take drugs for 9 months. If you notice any symptoms of active TB, contact your doctor immediately.
For Active TB Patients
A combination of medications can treat active TB. The most common are ethambutol, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and rifampin. You will be directed to consume the medicine for 6 to 12 months.
For Resistant TB Patients
Your doctor may give you one or more different medications. You may have to take them for more than 30 months, and they can cause more serious side effects.
Complications of TB
Tuberculosis infection can cause some complications in your body.
- Joint damage
- Lung damage
- Infection or damage to your bones, spinal cord, brain, or lymph nodes
- Liver or kidney problem
- Meningitis – inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes
- Inflammation of the tissues around your heart
Prevention of Tuberculosis
If you test positive for latent tuberculosis infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce the risk of developing active TB. The only type of TB that is contagious is the active lung-affecting variety. So if you can prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active, you will not transmit tuberculosis to anyone else.
If you have active TB, keep your germs with you. It usually takes a few weeks of treatment with TB drugs before you are no longer contagious. Follow these simple tips to help protect your friends and family from getting sick.
- Stay at home. Do not go to work in a room or go to school or sleep with others during the first few weeks of treatment for active tuberculosis.
- Ventilate the room properly. Tuberculosis germs spread more easily in small closed spaces where there is no air. Avoid using air conditioners.
- Whenever you laugh, sneeze or cough, cover your mouth. Use a tissue to cover your mouth. Put the dirty tissue in a bag, seal it, and throw it away.
- Wear a mask. Wearing a surgical mask when you are around other people during the first three weeks of treatment can help reduce the risk of transmission.
OTC Medicines for TB
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The most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from tuberculosis is to finish the entire course of medicine. When you stop treatment early or skip a dose, there is a chance of developing mutations in TB bacteria that allow them to survive against even the most powerful TB drugs. We hope that this article has given you enough knowledge about what TB really is, and how it is diagnosed, and treated.
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