All you need to know about Tuberculosis

What is Tuberculosis?

TB is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs but can also affect the brain, kidneys or the spine. It is contagious and spreads from person to person through air.

What are the Symptoms of TB?

Symptoms may vary depending on the organ which is infected with the bacteria.

Some common symptoms are

  • Coughing, sometimes with mucus or blood
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats

 What is the difference between a latent TB infection and TB disease?

In latent TB infection, the TB germs are present in the body but are not active. These individuals do not the spread the bacteria to others. But there is a fair chance that the individual might develop TB disease in the future. Therefore treatment has to be taken to prevent from developing the disease.

People with TB disease are sick from TB germs that are active, meaning that they are multiplying and destroying tissue in their body. They usually have symptoms of TB disease. People with TB disease of the lungs or throat are capable of spreading the bacteria to others.

If I spent time with the individual who has latent TB infection, then should I get tested for TB infection?

A person with latent TB infection cannot spread germs to other people. You do not need to be tested if you have spent time with someone with latent TB infection. However, if you have spent time with someone with the disease or someone with symptoms of TB, you should be tested.

How Do You Get Tested for TB?

There are different kinds of tests to detect TB infection:

Skin Test:The Mantoux tuberculin skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid  called tuberculin into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test must come back after 72 hours to look for a reaction on the arm.

Imaging test: If you’ve had a positive skin test, then a chest X-ray or a CT scan is required. This test may show white spots in your lungs where your immune system has walled off TB bacteria, or it may reveal changes in your lungs caused by active tuberculosis.

Sputum test: If your chest X-ray shows signs of tuberculosis, your doctor may take samples of your sputum — the mucus that comes up when you cough. The samples are tested for TB bacteria. Sputum samples can also be used to test for drug-resistant strains of TB. This helps your doctor choose the medications that are most likely to work. These tests can take four to eight weeks to be completed.

Xpert test: This is a recent technology where sputum, Endometrium, Lymph Node, Pleural Body fluids, Tissue can be tested. This method is quick and you will come to know if the bacteria is resistant to Rifampicin/INH or not, the very next day.

How is TB Disease Treated?

There are several drugs to treat TB. It is very important that people who have TB disease finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed, or the patient may develop a resistance to the drugs.  TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat. In some situations, staff of the local health department meet regularly with patients who have TB to watch them take their medications. This is called directly observed therapy (DOT). DOT helps the patient complete treatment in the least amount of time.

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