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Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that affects a person’s lungs. It is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria and can become life-threatening if not treated at the earliest . In 2021, India recorded 21.4 lakh cases of tuberculosis, a whopping 18% higher than in 2020 .
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that an estimated quarter of the global population is infected with tuberculosis bacteria. However, a majority of people will not get affected by this disease. There is only a 5 to 10% chance that these people will ever be diagnosed with this disease in their lives .
Here’s a quick glance at the symptoms, causes, medications and complications of tuberculosis:
|Symptoms||Chronic coughing, cough with blood in mucus, fever, weight loss, etc.|
|Complications||Meningitis, spinal pain, joint damage, kidney and liver problems, etc.|
|Causes||Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria|
|Diagnosis||CXR, culture, tuberculin skin test, QuantiFERON, etc.|
|Prevention||Screening, timely treatment and administration of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine|
To understand the disease better, here’s a detailed overview of tuberculosis. Read on!
Tuberculosis cases can be of two types – latent and active. In the first case, the bacteria are present inside an individual’s body, but he/she does not experience any symptoms. Hence, it is called latent or inactive tuberculosis. It is not communicable; however, if not treated, this disease can turn into an active state.
In the second case, the patient experiences symptoms, and the disease can spread to other individuals. The onset period can range from a few weeks to years after getting infected.
Some common symptoms of active tuberculosis are:
Besides the lungs, tuberculosis can also affect other areas in an individual’s body, like the brain, kidney, spine, etc. Based on the organ CV that this disease has affected, TB symptoms can vary. Thus, a person suffering from this disease can experience symptoms like blood in urine, back pain and more .
TB is a disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It travels through the air as droplets and spreads when the infected individual spits, sneezes, coughs, laughs, sings, etc. Though this may be a contagious disease, it is not very communicable .
People are more likely to catch this disease from individuals with whom they live or work than complete strangers. Patients diagnosed with active tuberculosis, who have had proper treatment for a minimum of two weeks, have fewer chances of infecting others .
Individuals with the following conditions have a high risk of contracting this disease:
Patients infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are at a high risk of suffering from tuberculosis. It suppresses an individual’s immune system, making it difficult for him/her to resist TB infection. Thus, people with HIV have a high chance of contracting tuberculosis and progressing from the latent to the active stage.
Over time, the tuberculosis bacteria have developed some strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, some TB strains are resistant to less commonly used TB drugs.
This generally occurs when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the targeted bacteria as either the patient does not take his/her medication as directed or due to non-completion of the treatment course .
As stated before, tuberculosis can be generally classified into two types – active and latent. Here are some of the types that fall under the active category:
When TB affects the lungs, it is known as pulmonary tuberculosis. People generally contract this disease through the droplets spread by infected individuals through spitting, coughing, etc.
The bacteria can stay in the air for several hours and, after entering a person’s body, may remain dormant for a few weeks to years before becoming active. Affected patients can experience symptoms like chronic coughing, shortness of breath, coughing up phlegm and blood, chest pains, etc. .
This is the most common form of extrapulmonary tuberculosis that affects an individual’s lymph nodes. It generally targets the cervical lymph nodes but can also affect other nodes.
Usually, patients experience swollen lymph nodes as the primary symptom; however, they can also face night sweats, unintentional weight loss, fever, fatigue, etc. Generally, tuberculosis medications are enough to treat this specific disease; however, in certain cases, drainage may also be necessary .
Skeletal tuberculosis or bone TB is a disease that spreads from the lungs or lymph nodes to the patient’s bones. It can affect any bone in the body, including the joints and spine. This variant of tuberculosis is generally rare. However, it is prevalent in those nations where there are high numbers of HIV and AIDS cases.
Bone TB does not have any specific signs, but over time, affected individuals may experience symptoms like bone deformities, excessive back pain, stiffness, swelling and abscesses .
You should consult a doctor when you notice the above-mentioned signs of tuberculosis. These symptoms may also be visible for other health conditions, so visiting a physician is the best way to determine whether you have been infected with this disease.
Moreover, you should consider visiting your doctor for a TB screening in the following circumstances :
Tuberculosis has various types. Thus, the healthcare provider will have to conduct several tests to determine whether the patient is suffering from active or latent tuberculosis.
Generally, tuberculosis diagnosis will start by checking the patient’s breathing using a stethoscope. Then, there will be an inspection of his/her body for swollen lymph nodes.
After this, a Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) is conducted by injecting a small dose of tuberculin into the skin of the patient’s forearm, and the reaction is monitored for 48 to 72 hours.
Although infectious, tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease.
In a majority of cases, patients can recover from this disease via proper treatment. Individuals with active tuberculosis will have to continue medication for 6 months or more regardless of when they were exposed to the bacteria. Moreover, they have to take multiple medicines to combat this disease.
Patients should also keep in mind the following :
When an individual tests positive for tuberculosis, the doctor generally prescribes two types of medication – intensive and continuation. Patients may experience side effects like loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice, dark urine, blurred vision, easy bruising, etc. These are not common; however, if one experiences them, he/she should immediately notify the physician.
Furthermore, people should remember that all TB medicines can be toxic to the liver. Also, it is crucial to complete the entire treatment course to get rid of this disease.
Here is a list of medications that doctors generally prescribe:
Doctors may recommend taking these medicines for 2 months in the intensive treatment phase. After this, in the continuation phase, they might also prescribe a combination of Rifampin and Isoniazid for 4 months.
Depending on the patient’s condition, if shorter treatment options are not applicable, the doctor may prescribe a longer treatment option of 9 months.
The best measure for tuberculosis prevention is to get yourself vaccinated. The BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin) vaccine is made from a strain of the Mycobacterium bovis in its weakened form. This is the only licensed TB vaccine and provides 80% protection from this disease for 15 years .
It’s highly effective for protecting small children from complex variations of TB but less effective for people aged above 35 years. Furthermore, this vaccine is also less potent in equatorial regions where the environment has a high level of naturally occurring mycobacteria.
Like any other disease, tuberculosis also needs proper treatment to avoid complications. If an individual has active TB, it can severely affect his/her lungs if the proper medication is not taken. Moreover, the disease can also spread to other parts of the body .
Inflation and metabolic abnormalities are some of the general complications associated with TB. Patients who delay treatment can also suffer from tuberculous arthritis affecting their hips and knees .
In India, the Government offers TB treatment that is entirely free of charge. However, in case you opt for treatment at a private hospital or are suffering from TB complications, the treatment costs can get significantly high.
Moreover, the expenses can also differ based on the disease’s severity and time taken to recover completely.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that can lead to severe complications if not treated on time. Although vaccination is an excellent preventive measure, its effectiveness lasts only up to a certain age. Hence, individuals have the chance of getting infected later in their lives.
To effectively handle all treatment-related costs, having a health insurance policy is an effective solution. Navi Health Insurance provides cashless treatment facilities in 10,000 + network hospitals all over India, unlimited online consultations and a monthly premium starting at just ₹234. Get a quote now!
Individuals with HIV, people who have suffered from tuberculosis in the last 2 years, TB patients who were untreated or did not receive proper treatment, individuals with diabetes, etc., are at the highest risk of getting infected by this disease.
No, TB only spreads through droplets in the air. When an infected person laughs, sneezes or coughs without covering his/her mouth, the germs are released into the environment. They can stay in the air for a few hours and enter another body if someone breathes in that area.
Doctors generally do not prescribe any special diet for tuberculosis patients. However, there are some types of food that are known to aid in the treatment of tuberculosis. Some of them are pineapple, banana, turmeric, onion, ginger, etc.
Tuberculosis patients should avoid consuming tobacco-based products like cigarettes, bidis, hookah, etc. Moreover, they must also avoid alcohol and any other intoxicating drugs
Only in cases of Pulmonary tuberculosis is when the family of a patient is at risk. In other forms of TB, the bacteria cannot spread from patients allowing them to safely stay with their families.
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