Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially life-threatening condition that mainly affects the lungs. Tuberculosis is an airborne disease, meaning that the bacteria that cause it are spread from one person to the other through tiny droplets released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
- Fluoroquinolones which is a combination of antibiotics
- Injectables such as amikacin, kanamycin or capreomycin
The symptoms of tuberculosis may differ from one person to the other depending on the form and severity of the infection. Nevertheless, the typical symptoms of TB include:
- Coughs, sometimes accompanied with blood or mucus
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
When untreated, tuberculosis can also affect other parts of the body including the kidney, spine or brain. When TB affects parts other than the lungs, the symptoms may vary according to the organs affected.
- TB affecting the bones may result in spinal and joint destruction
- TB affecting the brain may cause meningitis
- TB infecting the liver and kidneys may interfere with waste filtration functions
- TB affecting the heart may compromise the heart’s ability to pump blood
Tuberculosis is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. The bacteria spread from one person to the other when microscopic droplets containing the bacteria are released into the air. This mainly happens when a person with untreated, active form of tuberculosis spits, laughs, coughs, speaks or sneezes. Important facts to note about tuberculosis at its related causes include:
- People infected with HIV have a higher risk of contracting TB compared to HIV-negative individuals
- A drug-resistant TB occurs when antibiotics fail to kill all of the bacteria it targets. A drug-resistant TB can be passed from mother to child.
- Weakened immune system, regular contact with infected people and traveling or living in certain areas such as Sub-Saharan, China or Pakistan are some of the factors that can increase the risk of contracting TB.
During diagnosis, the doctor will carry out a physical examination to check if there are lymph nodes and with the use of a stethoscope, he or she will listen to the sound of your lungs as you breath. The most commonly used tool for diagnosis of tuberculosis is a simple skin test. In the recent past, blood tests are increasingly becoming prevalent. Typically, a tuberculosis diagnosis includes:
- Blood tests – These are used to confirm or rule out latent or active tuberculosis
- Imaging test – These are conducted if the patient has a positive skin test. The imaging tests may reveal changes in your lungs as a result of an active TB.
- Sputum tests – If the image tests show signs of tuberculosis, the doctor may carry out sputum tests to find out the strain of tuberculosis is drug resistant.
Treatment of tuberculosis revolves around the use of medications. While tuberculosis is a bacterial infection, its treatment may take longer than other forms of bacterial conditions. To treat tuberculosis:
- You must take antibiotics for six to nine months
- Take medications based on your age, overall health, the body’s ability to handle the effects of the drug and the form of (TB). Note that, depending on the mentioned factors, individual doses for treatment of TB may vary from one patient to the other.
- Get vaccinated – The tuberculosis vaccine known as Bacilli Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is often administered to children to prevent a severe outbreak.