Do you have frequent coughing coupled with pain in the chest? And do you see blood when you cough? Then it is certainly indicating a type of infection called TB. Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.4 million people lost their lives to TB. Also, TB accounts for one of the top 10 causes of death across the globe.
In this article, we walk you through what TB is, the symptoms of TB, treatment, and much more.
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. The bacteria have the primary target of attacking the lungs. When the disease spreads and develops to more advanced stages the bacteria can attack other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine, and even the brain.
In the United States, nearly 8,900 plus new cases of Tuberculosis were reported according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of cases is falling due to better technological advancements to detect the TB bacterium at the early stages and antibiotics to prevent the spread of the disease.
How does Tuberculosis (TB) Spread?
Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease that spreads from one person to another primarily through the cough and sneezing of an infected person. A typical cough or sneeze of a human being can cause the droplets coming out of the mouth and nose to travel up to 6 feet in the air. That is anyone who is within the range, that is 6 feet can get infected.
Tuberculosis bacteria can also spread through plates and drinking water vessels used by an infected person if used uncleaned. Practicing hygienic measures and avoiding contaminated foods can prevent multiple diseases including Tuberculosis.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis symptoms do not exhibit in very early stages, the bacteria tend to maintain a low profile and keeps manipulating and infecting the lungs. Then the symptoms show up when the lungs are almost fully infected.
Generally, there are two forms of tuberculosis.
- Active TB remains very active in the body even in the initial stages, causing symptoms and easily spreading to other healthy persons.
- Latent TB, as the name suggests, this form remains inactive in the body causing no symptoms. However, the bacteria can become active anytime causing maximum damage.
Active tuberculosis causes various symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and sweating at night. However, these are common symptoms that can resemble that of a flu-like disease. There are 5 symptoms that can be distinguishable from any other disease. Look for the following 5 symptoms to confirm that you are infected with TB –
1. Continuous coughing
As the bacteria’s primary target organ is the lungs, the lungs get vulnerable to the bacteria causing deterioration in the small pores inside them that help in regulating the oxygen and carbon dioxide flow in and out of the body. Once affected with TB, breathing with deteriorated lungs becomes difficult and causes coughing. In severe cases, there will be continuous coughing.
2. Coughing up blood
Coughing blood is one of the most commonly known and experienced symptoms when TB infection occurs. Persistent coughing can cause more trouble leading to bloody cough. A bloody cough is more of an extreme condition where only in some cases the patient can be treated and become normal after several months-long treatments.
3. Pain in the chest
This is the second most common symptom where severe coughing can lead to pain in the chest. Sometimes, shortness of breath can also occur due to malfunctioning of the lungs causing breathing problems.
4. Unexplained weight loss
Besides the pulmonary symptoms, TB-infected individuals experience significant weight loss. In one study, more than 40% of Los Angeles residents who had TB experienced a lack of appetite and more than 44% lost weight without any known reason.
If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms or if you are at a high-risk factor, that is falling in any of the following health conditions/habits then is it advisable to get screened for Quantiferon TB gold test.
- A weakened immune system like HIV infection
- Chemotherapy treatment
- End-stage kidney disease
- Diabetic patients
- Drug users including tobacco
Can Tuberculosis be Treated?
Initially, a screening test will be prescribed by your doctor. To screen for tuberculosis, Quantiferon Gold TB testing is the most accurate testing standard. Diagnostic providers like DxSaver.com have listed out labs that provide the test near you along with their prices. They also have a network of labs with more than 3000+ certified laboratories in the United States.
After the screening test, your doctor will analyze the reports and assess your severity. There are some medications like Isoniazid, ethambutol (Myambutol), pyrazinamide, and rifampin that can be prescribed by your physician for treating TB. However some people are sensitive to certain meditations, if that’s the case, they can result in signs such as dark urine, jaundice, and/or abdominal pain. Inform your physician when you start noticing these symptoms so that he/she can change the medications to the best alternative as per your body.
When talking about TB treatment, it is very important to complete the full treatment course. Otherwise, there are higher chances of the bacterium coming back.
When TB is left undiagnosed and untreated the bacteria can spread to other organs through the bloodstream. It can also be fatal and can spread to other organs such as the heart, brain, liver, kidney, and spine.
Tuberculosis is one of the most vigorous pulmonary diseases. Symptoms like coughing up blood and persistent cough are to be addressed as quickly as possible. Leading a healthy lifestyle can always keep away most infectious diseases. Not to mention, hygienic measures come at the forefront of a healthy lifestyle, highly contagious diseases like TB can be avoided if hygienic measures are in check.