Tuberculosis: All You Need To Know
What Is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection that usually strikes the lungs. It can also spread to different parts of your body, like the brain and spine. The condition is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Can Tuberculosis Be Cured?
In the 20th century, TB was the primary cause of death in the United States. Today, most cases are cured with medicines, but it takes a long time. TB patients must take medicines for at least 6 to 9 months to completely cure the condition.
Stages Of Tuberculosis
TB disease doesn't always mean you'll get ill. There are two stages of the disease:
• Latent TB: You have germs in your body, but your immune system prevents them from spreading. You don't have any signs, and you're not infectious, but the bacteria is still present in your body and can one day become active.
• Active TB: The germs reproduce and make you ill. You can spread the infection to others.
A latent or active TB infection can also be drug-resistant, indicating certain medicines don't work against the bacteria.
Tuberculosis Signs and Symptoms
Signs of TB include:
• Cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
• Chest pain
• Coughing up blood
• Feeling tired all the time
• Night sweats
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
Treatment of TB generally depends on the type of infection:
• If you have latent TB, your doctor will give you medication to kill the bacteria so the infection doesn't activate. You will have to take the medications for up to 9 months. If you see any symptoms of active TB, call your doctor immediately.
• A blend of drugs also treats active TB. You'll take them for 6 to 12 months.
• If you have drug-resistant TB, your doctor may give you one or more different medicines. You may have to take them for much longer, up to 30 months, and they can cause more side effects.
Tuberculosis disease can cause complications such as:
• Joint damage
• Lung damage
• Infection or weakening of your bones, spinal cord, brain, or lymph nodes
• Liver or kidney problems
• Inflammation of the tissues around your heart
Following are some of the preventive measures that may help stop the spread of TB:
• If you have a latent infection, take all of your medicine so it doesn't grow active and deadly.
• If you have active TB, limit your connection with other people. Wrap your mouth when you laugh, sneeze, or cough. Wear a medical mask when you're around other people during the first few weeks of therapy.
• If you're travelling to a place where TB is prevalent, avoid spending a lot of time in congested places with sick people.
Dr Sudhir Prasad
Consultant – Pulmonologist