Tuberculosis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Tuberculosis mainly affects the lungs but it can spread to any other organs.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease that affects the lungs but it can otherwise affect any organ in the body. TB can be spread from person to person through bacteria in tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

Tuberculosis infections began increasing in 1985 during the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It is because HIV weakens a person's immune system which makes it difficult for the body to fight against TB germs.

Many tuberculosis strains resist the drugs used to treat the disease. People with active tuberculosis have to take various medications for months to get rid of the infection. We have put down the symptoms, reasons for the spread, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis.


Tuberculosis: Types 

According to the doctors of the Mayo Clinic, these are the two types of TB cases:

  • Latent TB- In such cases, the bacteria in the body remain inactive and cause no symptoms. It is also known as inactive TB and it isn't contagious. Latent TB can turn into active TB, so treatment is important.

  • Active TB- This type of TB makes you sick and it is highly contagious. It can occur weeks or years after infection with the TB bacteria.

Tuberculosis: Signs & Symptoms

According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, signs and symptoms of active TB include:

  • Coughing for three or more weeks

  • Coughing up blood or mucus

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Night sweats

  • Chills

  • Loss of appetite

Tuberculosis can also affect any organ of the body like the kidneys, spine, or brain thus the signs and symptoms vary according to the organs involved. For example, tuberculosis of the spine causes back pain, and tuberculosis in your kidneys causes blood in your urine.

How Does TB Spread?

TB can be spread when a patient with active TB coughs, sings, talks, laughs, or sneezes and releases the germs into the air. Only people with active pulmonary infection are contagious and most people who breathe in TB bacteria are able to fight the bacteria and stop it from growing. Though the bacteria may cause latent TB.

Although the bacteria are inactive, they still remain alive in the body and may become active later. People may even suffer from latent TB infection for a lifetime, without developing any TB disease.


Tuberculosis: Diagnosis 

According to US NIH, there are two kinds of screening tests for TB: the Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) and the blood test, called the interferon gamma release assay (IGRA).

Further tests to confirm if you are suffering from an active TB or not include:

  • Lab tests on sputum and lung fluid.

  • Chest X-ray.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans.

Tuberculosis: Treatment 

According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, TB infection and disease are treated with these drugs:

  • Isoniazid

  • Rifampin

  • Ethambutol

  • Pyrazinamide

  • Rifapentine

You have to make sure to take the medicines as prescribed or all the bacteria will not be killed. These medicines have to be taken till the doctor recommends and sometimes it is up to 9 months.

Some forms of TB have become resistant to medications. It’s very important and likely that your provider will use more than one drug to treat TB. It’s very important to finish your entire prescription.

Few countries even have a TB vaccine called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) which is given to children in countries with high rates of TB to prevent meningitis and a serious form of TB called miliary tuberculosis.

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Topics:  Tuberculosis 

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