What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a respiratory disease usually caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. This infection usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. According to the World Health Organization, one third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with Tuberculosis. Over the years, health organizations and agencies have created ways to stop the spread of the disease. In order for us not to acquire tuberculosis, first we have to know what it is. The information below will tackle the important concepts you need to know about Tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis can be acquired through droplet infections. When an infected person coughs, spits, speak or sneezes, they expel the tuberculosis bacteria into the air causing other people to inhale the microorganism therefore leading to infection. According to the study conducted by the World Health Organization, a single sneeze can release up to 40,000 droplets. Each droplet can transmit the disease.

Although tuberculosis affects mainly the lungs, other parts of the body can be affected too. Tuberculosis or TB affects first the upper lobe of the lungs. When you do not have the bacteria, the immune system can fight the TB bacteria and make it dormant. When you have the dormant bacteria and inhale new TB bacteria, those microorganisms will be reactive and the bacteria will reproduce in the lungs and can spread anywhere else in the body therefore causing infection.

The symptoms of tuberculosis include weakness, fever, weight loss and night sweats. If the condition aggravates, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, coughing of sputum, and blood may occur. When the condition is not treated and left unattended, this can lead to the shutting of organs and death.

The condition can be diagnosed in different ways such as X-rays, sputum analysis and skin test.

X-rays reveals active tuberculosis as well as scarring of lung tissue, fibrosis and calcification.

Sputum exams are done thrice to confirm the diagnosis of tuberculosis using special dyes called acid fast bacteria. Sputum exams need to be positive in order to confirm the diagnosis.

A skin test is also done to confirm tuberculosis. Mantoux test is the most popular skin test done to diagnose by injection of diluted tuberculin. The test is confirmed positive if there is a raised, reddened area after 48 to 72 hours after the injection. The test can be falsely negative if an individual is known to have weakened immune system or suffering from an infection.

Active Tuberculosis is treated with a combination of different antibiotics such as isoniazid, rifampicin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide. All four drugs need to be taken during the first two months of treatment. The number of drugs is reduced to two after two months. Streptomycin which is a potent drug given by injection is administered to patients who are not responsive to oral medications and the TB case is extensive. Surgery of the lungs may also be conducted as a form of treatment when all medications have failed to do so.

You can prevent acquiring Tuberculosis by not staying close to an infected person as well as having a healthy immune system. The very common methods of eating healthy foods and having a healthy lifestyle will prevent you from acquiring the disease.

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