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World Tuberculosis Day | How Does One Get Tested? TB Specialist Answers FAQs

On World Tuberculosis Day, Dr Vikas Oswal breaks down important points about the disease in a simple manner.

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Every year, tuberculosis (TB) causes the loss of thousands of lives, remaining a significant global health concern.

In 2019, 89,823 people in India passed away due to TB. In 2020, the number decreased to 76,002 deaths.

On World Tuberculosis Day, 24 March, Dr Vikas Oswal, a Mumbai-based pulmonologist and TB specialist, breaks down important points about the disease in a simple manner.

How Does TB Spread?

TB is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs but can also target other organs.

It spreads through the air when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing infectious particles into the environment.

Vulnerability to TB may be influenced by factors such as immune status and underlying health conditions.

While the disease is more common in older adults, it can affect individuals of all ages, including children and young adults.
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What Are the Symptoms of TB?

TB often manifests with persistent coughing that doesn't improve with regular antibiotics, says Dr Oswal. Other common symptoms include:

  • Night sweats

  • Fever

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Coughing up blood or blood-stained sputum

  • Decreased appetite and difficulty eating properly

Does TB Impact Only Lungs?

While TB most commonly impacts a patients' lungs, it can travel beyond the organ, leading to infections in other parts of the body. This can result in:

  • Swellings near the neck, underarms, or at the fold of the legs

  • Enlarged lymph nodes, especially in the neck, armpits, or abdomen

  • Infections in mesenteric lymph nodes, causing abdominal swelling

Noteworthily, TB can potentially affect any part of the body except hair and nails.

Apart from pulmonary TB, there can also be in the kidneys, spine, and brain.

Extra-pulmonary TB accounts for a significant portion of TB cases worldwide.

How Does One Get Tested for TB?

Individuals experiencing a cough lasting more than two weeks should consider getting tested for TB.

To diagnose TB, various tests are available, including:

  • Sputum examination: Samples are sent for analysis, including GeneXpert, MGIT, and LPA tests.

  • Biopsy: If there are swellings or enlarged lymph nodes, a biopsy may be recommended for further evaluation.

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How Is TB Treated?

Treatment for TB typically involves a long-term dosage of antibiotics. Adhering to the prescribed treatment regimen is essential to prevent the development of drug-resistant strains.

Can TB Be Prevented?

Taking preventive measures is essential to reduce the risk of transmission. This includes:

  • Avoiding close contact with individuals diagnosed with TB

  • Ensuring good ventilation in living spaces

  • Practising good hygiene, such as covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing

  • Getting vaccinated

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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