What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious bacterial infection that often affects the lungs. It may also spread to other parts of the body, like the central nervous system, lymphatic system, and circulatory system. Treatment for tuberculosis may take a long time. The infectious organism may spread from one person to another through the air droplets in a cough and sneeze.
TB is basically of two types:
- Latent TB – In this condition the immune system prevents the bacteria from being active and causing TB. People with this condition harbor the bacteria in the body without any symptoms and will not spread the disease to others. But after a period of time, the latent condition may become active.
- Active TB – In this condition the infection causes specific symptoms and may spread from the affected person to others.
Pulmonary TB, or the TB that affects the lungs, spread through droplets of air containing the bacterium. The bacteria may come out from the infected person even when they laugh. But TB found in other parts of the body may not spread as easily as pulmonary TB.
Some people are more prone to get TB, including:
- People with weak immune system or HIV
- Those who live in close contact with a person with TB
- People who live or work in crowded places
- Peope who abuse alcohol or drugs
- People who care for the infected person
During the initial stages of infection the symptoms are very mild. In the case of latent TB, the person may not even realize the presence of infection as no symptoms are produced.
The most common symptoms of TB include:
- Severe cough with bloody or cloudy mucus
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
- Night sweats
- Increased heart rate
- Swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Four different antibiotics are given in combination for the treatment of the TB. The medicines are given for about six months to bring active TB under control. In most cases, the infection disappears after six months of treatment. If the infection still persists after this, the treatment may be continued for another three to four months. For latent TB, treatment is with one antibiotic, which is continued for about nine months. In the case of TB, medications should be taken as per the recommendation without fail. If doses are missed or if medication is stopped all on a sudden, the treatment may have to be started all over again. If left untreated, active TB can affect other organs and result in life threatening complications. It may also spread to other people around you.