Tuberculosis: Cause, Symptoms and Cures

Tuberculous or TB is a deadly infectious disease caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB is a dreaded bacterial infection. It has been known to mankind since ancient ages. The bacterial infection can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in your body. It is most often found in the lungs.

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most common infections in the world. About 2 billion people are infected with TB and nearly 3 million people are killed by it each year.

What cause TB?

Generally it is transmitted from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected. 

As the bacteria that cause tuberculosis are transmitted through the air, the disease can be contagious. Infection is most likely to occur if you are exposed to someone with TB on a day-to-day basis, such as by living or working in close quarters with someone who has the active disease. Tuberculosis bacteria spreads from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air. This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings.

Even then, because the bacteria generally stay latent (inactive) after they invade your body, about one-third of the world's population has latent TB, which means you have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with disease and cannot transmit the disease -- such peoples show no signs of infection and won't be able to spread the disease to others, unless their disease becomes active.

Other infections like HIV is a big contributor in the increased number of TB cases. The HIV virus suppresses the immune system, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria. As a result, people with HIV are many times more likely to get TB and to progress from latent to active disease than are people who aren't HIV positive. 

In some cases the TB bacteria may develop drug resistant abilities and survive. Later it can launch a killer attack on the body resulting in death.

Are you at risk?

If your healthy and disease free no need to worry. A healthy immune system often successfully fights TB bacteria, but your body can't mount an effective defense if your resistance is low. A number of diseases and medications can weaken your immune system, including:
  • Diabetes
  • End-stage kidney disease
  • Certain cancers
  • Cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy
  • Drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs
  • Some drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis
  • Malnutrition
  • Very young or advanced age
Some other reasons may include:
  • Frequent visits to places with high rates of TB cases.
  • Lack of medical attention.
  • Heavy drinking and smoking
It was virtually wiped out with the help of antibiotics developed in the 1950s, but the disease is resurfacing again in dangerous new forms -- multidrug-resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB and HIV with TB. These new and dangerous forms of the disease -- resistant to some of the commonly used drug treatments -- have created a public health crisis in many large cities worldwide. If you have TB -- in its active or latent state -- you must seek medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of Tuberculosis?

When a person becomes infected with tuberculosis, the bacteria in the lungs multiply and causes pneumonia along with chest pain, coughing up blood, and a prolonged cough. symptoms include:
  • Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood or sputum
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
If left untreated it can be fatal and create a number of health complications by affecting your bones, brain, kidneys, liver and heart. See your doctor if you have a fever, unexplained weight loss or a persistent cough. These are often signs of TB. Your doctor can perform some laboratory tests to help determine and diagnose the illness. 

How to treat TB?

With medication treatment, a TB infection can usually be cured. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics, usually for six months. More than one antibiotic is used to prevent emergence of resistance of the bacteria to the antibiotics. Those infected with a drug resistant form of tuberculosis may be prescribed a longer course of antibiotics. 

The most common medications used to treat tuberculosis include: Isoniazid, Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), Ethambutol (Myambutol), Pyrazinamide. Taking vitamin D during tuberculosis treatment enhances some of the effects of the drugs.

After a few weeks, you won't be contagious, and you may start to feel better. It might be tempting to stop taking your TB drugs. But it is crucial that you finish the full course of therapy and take the medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Stopping treatment too soon or skipping doses can allow the bacteria that are still alive to become resistant to those drugs, leading to TB that is much more dangerous and difficult to treat.

Some people may experience side effects when they take TB medications although not common, immediately inform your doctor when you experience nausea or vomiting, pale skin, dark urine, and fever lasting more than 3 days.

How to prevent TB?

If you test positive for latent TB infection, your doctor may advise you to take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. If you have active TB, keep your germs to yourself. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you're not contagious anymore.

Eating a healthful diet that takes care of your immune system, getting a TB test regularly if you work or live in a high risk environment, and finishing TB medications. To prevent transmitting the disease to others if you are infected, stay home, cover your mouth, and ensure proper ventilation. 


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