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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What is Tuberculosis

Many people don’t know what is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious ailment caused by a bacterium named Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Most often TB impacts the lungs. But, it can also affect organs of the circulatory system, lymphatic system and central nervous system among others. TB multiplies the bacteria inside the lungs and causes pneumonia, prolonged cough and spitting up of blood. In severe cases, TB affects bones, kidneys and the meninges lining of the brain and spinal cord. TB is a feared killer disease in Asia and Africa, claiming about two million lives annually. HIV/AIDS patients are more prone to this disease.
Causes of Tuberculosis
As mentioned earlier, the Mycobacterium tuberculosis spread TB among people through airborne particles. People with strong immune system are able to resist infection. But, those with weak immune system get infected. In some people, there is latent TB infection and they carry the dreaded bacteria without showing any symptoms or becoming contagious. Others immediately fall sick and start spreading the disease to others.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Pain during breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

Diagnosis of Tuberculosis
Diagnosis requires a combination of imaging, blood and skin tests. The Mantoux test is a simple skin test that can reveal TB infection. Blood tests can reveal if the TB is latent or active. Computer Tomography (CT) and chest x-rays can also reveal TB infection.

Who Gets TB?
The following people have a greater risk of contracting TB:
  • Those who stay with TB infected patients
  • Homeless and poor people
  • People who are born in countries that have endemic TB
  • Prison inmates, nursing home dwellers and older people
  • Intravenous drug users and alcoholics
  • People suffering from malnutrition
  • Those with weak immune systems, HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients and diabetics
  • Health-care workers
  • Workers in shelters or refugee camps

Treatment for Tuberculosis
  • Latent TB is treated with an antibiotic named isoniazid (INH). But, pregnant women should not use INH, as it can cause side effects like peripheral neuropathy and liver damage.
  • Treatment for active TB is done with INH and other drugs like pyrazinamide, ethambutol and rifampin. For severe TB, streptomycin is prescribed. Sometimes, drug therapy for TB can last for years.
  • If the TB is resistant to drugs, several additional medications are used. In this case, treatment extends for longer duration and surgery may be required to remove impacted lung tissue.
  • In most cases, patients stop taking medication as soon as they start to feel better. This is harmful as the medication should be continued for the full course to completely eliminate the TB bacteria in the body.

How to Prevent TB
  • BCG vaccine can protect infants and children from TB. But, even if you have been vaccinated as a child, you can still get TB in adulthood.
  • Eat a healthy diet to boost your immune system.
  • If you live in high risk areas, get a TB checkup done regularly.
  • If you get infected, prevent transmission of the disease by staying at home, covering your mouth and ensuring proper ventilation.
  • Finish your TB medications to ensure complete eradication of the disease.

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