Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection of the lungs and other parts of the body
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease of the lungs. It is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis and spreads from one person to another through expelled droplets while sneezing and coughs by the infected. TB is also called Koch’s bacillus after the name of Dr. Robert Koch who discovered the tuberculosis bacillus.
With the spurt in HIV/AIDS cases, TB also saw an increase, as HIV weakens the affected immune system making them greatly susceptible to TB infection. A cause of concern is TB’s resistance to antibiotics and the doctor’s continuous efforts to keep different strains of TB under control.
Tuberculosis is highly infectious and spreads from one person to another through droplets released into the air by coughing, speaking, sneezing, laughing and singing. The HIV infected and those with low immunity levels are more likely to get TB.
Doctors classify TB into latent TB and active TB. Latent TB is a condition where the person is infected but TB is inactive. The inactive or latent TB may become active once there is a drop in the immunity levels of the person.
The symptoms of active TB include coughing for three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain while breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite. Though TB is predominantly a disease of the lungs, it may affect other organs also. If TB infects the spine the symptoms are evident as back pain, of kidneys it may be seen as blood in the urine.
RISKS & COMPLICATIONS
Certain causes may enhance the risk of TB. Significantly, diseases and conditions that weaken the immune system viz. HIV, diabetes, kidney diseases, cancer and chemotherapy, organ transplantation and use of certain drugs enhance the risk of contracting tuberculosis. The occurrence of tuberculosis may lead to a number of complications viz. spinal pains, joint damage, swelling of the membranes of the brain (meningitis), liver or kidney problems and heart disorders.
TESTS & DIAGNOSIS
The doctor studies the signs and symptoms of the disease in each TB patient before recommending for a specific diagnostic test. The doctor checks the condition of the lungs with the help of a stethoscope, and also observes the lymph nodes for swelling.
The doctor may recommend a simple skin test, where PPD tuberculin is injected under the skin of the inside forearm. Those with TB infection may develop a red bump on the skin within 48 to 72 hours post PPD injection.
Blood Tests, Imaging Tests (X-ray and CT scan) and Sputum Tests may also be recommended to confirm the occurrence of Tuberculosis (TB). While the X-ray and CT scan helps to identify signs of TB, the sputum tests help the doctor to know about the drug-resistant strains of TB.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease. Its treatment takes longer duration (6-9 months) than other types of bacterial infections. The treatment for TB depends on a number of factors viz. patients age, overall health, drug resistance, infections location in the body and the strain of TB.