Tuberculosis or TB is an infectious disease which affects the lungs and is caused due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis or MTB. As far as diseases caused by single infectious agent are concerned, TB is the second biggest fatal diseases in the entire world. While it is true that it mainly affects the lungs, it can also affect certain other parts of the body. In most cases there are no signs or symptoms of this infection and in such cases it is termed as Latent Tuberculosis. In the cases of active tuberculosis, the main symptoms include fever, chronic cough, night sweats, weight loss etc.
Facts about tuberculosis
The following are some of the main facts and figures associated with tuberculosis:
• About 1.8 million people died due to this medical condition in the year 2005 globally and another 10.4 million fell sick.
• The World Health organization declared this disease to be a global emergency in the year 1993 after its cases began to rise around the world.
• It is good news that most cases of this disease are curable but those who do not receive treatment are likely to face serious complications.
• TB is basically an airborne pathogen which means it can spread from one person to another through the air. It is contagious but not very easy to catch.
• TB is among the top 3 reasons of death for women who are between the age of 15 and 44.
Who are at maximum risk?
Individuals whose immune systems have been compromised in some way or the other are at maximum risk of getting active tuberculosis. This means that people who have HIV are at an increased risk. Use of tobacco in any form are also at a high risk of developing this disease. So much so that about 20% of the cases of TB are related to smoking.
Signs and symptoms of TB:
The following is a list of the signs and symptoms of TB:
• Coughing is the most common sign of this disease and is combined with blood or mucus along with cough.
• Fatigue is another sign.
• A person may also get chills and this is another symptom.
• Loss of appetite as well as loss of weight are some of the other signs.
• One may also experience fever as a symptom.
• Night sweats may also be caused.
The above given symptoms are valid in the case when TB affects lungs but the following are symptoms when the disease affects other parts:
• TB that infects the brain can lead to meningitis.
• TB that infects the bones can result in joint destruction as well as spinal pain.
• TB that infects the heart can damage or impair the ability of the heart to pump blood and this can lead to a condition known as cardiac tamponade which can also result in death.
• TB that infects the kidneys and the liver can damage the waste filtration and cause blood in the urine.
Diagnosis and treatment
As far as the diagnosis is concerned, TB is diagnosed by the doctor using a stethoscope which helps him listen to the lungs and check if there is any swelling in the lymph nodes. The doctor in this case will also ask the patient about his medical history as well as any symptoms to assess the condition better. There is also a common test which is used for the diagnosis and it is basically a skin test which involves an injection that is injected just below the inside forearm. This injection has PPD tuberculin which is an extract of TB bacterium.
There are several other tests too which can be done to assess the condition and some of them include blood tests, sputum tests, chest X rays and others.
For treatment of TB, many types of medicines and medications are used. The length of treatment as well as the type may depend upon the exact condition of the patient and also other factors like age, resistance to drugs and location of the infection. Those who have been diagnosed with latest TB may need only a certain type of medication whereas those with active TB may need a combination of medicines.
It is important to remember that TB medications can prove to be harmful for the liver and may cause side effects like fever, dark urine, and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and even jaundice. The patient must complete the entire course of medications even if the condition is cured to avoid it from reoccurring.
Prevention of Tuberculosis
The following are some of the ways to prevent TB:
• If there is someone you know that has TB, then it is best to avoid that person for a few days and this is the best way to prevent catching the disease.
• One can also consider wearing a mask to cover the mouth to limit possibility of catching the virus.

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