What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB), is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria spread through the air from person to person, when an infected individual coughs or sneezes out the bacteria, spreading it through the air to be breathed in by others and mainly attacks the lungs, but it can affect other areas of the body such as the brain, kidney, or spine.
What Are the Symptoms of TB?
TB disease usually grows slowly, and it may take some weeks before you notice you’re unwell. Your symptoms might not begin until months or even years after you were initially affected. The infection may go through three stages:
Primary TB Infection
This is when the bacteria first arrive in your body. Primary infection, occurs in people without specific immunity, In general, normal children and young adults who have not previously been exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In most people, this causes no symptoms but others may experience fever or pulmonary symptoms.
Latent TB Infection
This TB bacteria can live in the body without making you sick. This is called latent TB infection. They do not have any symptoms but can possibly develop active TB disease.
Active TB disease is contagious. That means it can be reached from one person to another. It is most often spread through the air.
- Cough that lasts two weeks or more
- Pain in the chest
- Coughing up blood or thick mucous
- Night sweats
- Feeling weak or tired
- Weight loss
- Not wanting to eat
- Swollen neck gland(s)
How to Prevent TB?
Prevention is the key to stop the transmission of TB. Tuberculosis is a preventable disease if detected and treated early. It consists of early diagnosis and treatment of active TB to stop contagious.
If you have been in contact with someone who has active tuberculosis or thinks you may have, consult your health care provider. If you plan to travel to countries with high rates of TB, visit a health care provider or travel health care clinic 6 weeks before you leave. If you believe you are at risk of getting tuberculosis, ask about getting a skin test:
- before your trip
- after your trip
How Is Tuberculosis Diagnosed?
The most regularly used diagnostic tool for TB is a simple skin test, though blood tests are becoming more commonplace.
Blood is used to confirm or rule out latent or active tuberculosis. These tests measure your immune system’s reaction to tuberculosis bacteria.
If your skin test comes positive, your doctor is likely to order a chest X-ray or a CT scan. This may show white spots in your lungs where your immune system has separate TB bacteria, or it may disclose changes in your lungs caused by active TB. CT scans provide more-detailed images than do X-rays.
If a 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 tuberculosis bacteria.
Treatment of TB
If you have TB, but do not have active TB disease you should get preventive therapy. The most usual protective therapy is a daily dose of the antibiotic isoniazid (INH) taken as a single daily pill for six to nine months. You are not infectious if you have latent TB.
In case of active TB disease, you will probably be treated with a combination of antibacterial medications for a period of six to 12 months.
There are drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating tuberculosis. Of the approved drugs, the first-line anti-TB agents that form the core of treatment regimens are:
- isoniazid (INH)
- rifampin (RIF)
- ethambutol (EMB)
- pyrazinamide (PZA)
A healthy immune system is very crucial nowadays. It is the best defense against TB. It is very important to finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. Know you know what is tuberculosis and how we can prevent it.