Tuberculosis (TB): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


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What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a potentially dangerous bacterial disease, which affects the lungs and is caused by an organism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through the air.

Tuberculosis is the second leading cause of infectious mortality in the world, after HIV, and results in over 1 million deaths per year. Outbreaks often occur in crowded conditions.

Around 10% infected people develop active TB in their lifetimes. If not treated properly or left untreated, it can be fatal.

How does tuberculosis occur?

When a patient suffering from tuberculosis sneezes, coughs, laughs or spits, they spread the TB germs into the air. Any person nearby inhaling the air with the germs can get infected.

Once the bacteria enters a person’s system they concentrate and grow gradually in areas of the body that have lots of blood and oxygen. Therefore, they are almost always found in the lungs.

The incubation period may vary from about two to 12 weeks. A person may remain contagious for a long time (as long as viable TB bacteria are present in sputum) and can remain contagious until they have been on appropriate therapy for several weeks.

The bacteria can cause cavities to form in the lungs. Due to the cavities, bleeding may occur in the lungs. These pockets or cavities may also become infected with other bacteria and abscesses or pockets of pus may form as a result.

TB of the lungs is called Pulmonary TB. Pulmonary TB is highly contagious. However, TB can also spread to other parts of the body. This form of TB is called Extrapulmonary TB.

Simply inhaling the germs does not mean a person will develop what is called active tuberculosis. A person's immune system is often able to control the infection so that it does not cause the disease. In such a case, the bacteria will be there in the body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms of TB.

Based on this fact you can distinguish between:

  • Latent TB or Inactive TB: which is a condition in which the bacteria is in your body but in an inactive state and cause no symptoms of TB. This kind of TB infection is not contagious. At any point in time, however, based on the general health of the person this form of TB can turn active. Therefore treatment is imperative even for cases of Latent TB which can control the spread of TB.
  • Active TB:  In this condition the person with the infection becomes sick, experiences all the symptoms of TB, and can also infect others. TB can turn active immediately after infection or it can also become active years later.

Who is prone to tuberculosis?

Those who are at a high risk of contracting TB include:

  • people exposed to patients suffering from active pulmonary TB
  • health care workers who serve patients with TB
  • people in or working in prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters, drug treatment facilities, and healthcare facilities
  • people living in areas which have high rates of TB
  • infants, and young children and elderly people who have weak immune systems
  • drug abusers especially those who indulge in IV drug abuse
  • people suffering from HIV infection
  • people suffering from head and neck cancers
  • people who already have suffered from TB before and who were inadequately treated, especially infants and young children
  • patients who have undergone any form of transplant
  • kidney patients
  • people undergoing immunosuppressive therapy


What are the symptoms of tuberculosis? How is tuberculosis diagnosed?

Signs and symptoms of active TB include:

  • fever
  • coughing that lasts three or more weeks
  • coughing up blood
  • chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • unintentional weight loss
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • swollen lymph nodes


Diagnosis


For diagnosing TB a doctor will at first perform a physical exam. Using a stethoscope he listens to the sounds your lungs make when you breathe, and he will also check your lymph nodes.

Depending on his findings he might ask you to go for

  • A skin test: The skin test involves injecting a substance PPD tuberculin just below the skin of your inside forearm. After 48 to 72 hours, if you have TB, there will be a noticeable, hard, red swelling at the injected site.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are done to ascertain the presence of TB bacterium in the body of the patient. Blood tests do not, however, ensure if the patient has latent TB infection or it has progressed to active TB infection.
  • A chest x-ray: A chest x-ray can show the extent of damage to the lungs, and if further tests are required.
  • A CT scan: CT scans provide more-detailed images than X-rays do. A CT scan can show if your immune system has cordoned off any TB bacteria, or the extent of damage to the lungs in case of active TB.
  • Sputum test: This test is performed on the mucus that comes out with your cough. It can reveal TB bacteria if any.

What are the complications of tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis can cause numerous health complications such as:

  • back pain and stiffness
  • joint damage due to tuberculous arthritis especially in the hips and knees
  • meningitis, due to swelling of the membranes that cover your brain which can cause headaches
  • impaired liver or kidney functions, if tuberculosis spreads to the liver and kidneys
  • heart disorders if tuberculosis infects the tissues surrounding your heart. This can cause inflammation and fluid collections which can, in turn, disrupt the normal functioning of your heart including your heart's ability to pump effectively. A condition called cardiac tamponade may occur which can be fatal.

What is the treatment of tuberculosis?

It is extremely important that you follow the treatment religiously if you suffer from TB. Treating tuberculosis can be a lengthy process compared to other bacterial infections.

Depending on your overall health, your age, possible drug resistance, the form of TB you have (latent or active) and the location of the infection in your body, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics which you may need to take for up to nine months.

Some short-term treatments (up to four months) are also available these days. Please consult your doctor for more information about what treatment suits you better.


Would you like to consult a doctor for Tuberculosis (TB) ?

Patient Experiences

Saketh Kumar
TB in the Spine
I met with an accident in 2013 and got head injured, dr.rajeshaker reddy did surgery. After taking rest for two months I become alright and resumed to my college, but then after pain in the neck portion was increasing day by day.consulted general physicians and like me doctors also thought that it is due to rest and recommended physiotherapy, but the pain is keep on increasing and the problem is unable to identify in x-rays. Then atlast I consulted Dr.rajashaker reddy and as per his advice I undergone MRI and reports shown that it is TB Spine in c3 and c4 bone. Dr.rajashaker reddy gave me counseling that it is curable with medicines. For 2nd advice I visited yashoda hospital and ozone hospital and they really scared me by advising that surgery is compulsory and ask me to admit immediately. But I choose Dr.rajashaker reddy because he is the one who know my medical record more than other two, by followed his instructions correctly and with regular visits I got rid off TB with in 15months without surgery..and now I am completely alrisurgerystrongly recommend Dr.rajashaker reddy because what I observed in him was he is not commercial, he look at the problem and suggest suitable solution unlike other doctors who look for money. For any queries please feel free to call me at 9652233223....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Rajasekhar Reddy K
Albha Health Care(Remedy Hospitals)
Shweta Patil
Relief From Multi-Drug resistant TB
My mom was suffering from TB from past 6 years which later turned out to be Multi Drug resistant TB with Left lung being completely damaged and the infection started spreading to the right lung. we consulted many doctors and many medications were given spending a huge amount monthly but we were not seeing any improvement in her, her health was getting deteriorated day by day. we almost lost all our hope as doctors started saying she cannot survive past 1 year like this. with a slight hope in our mind we visited Dr Bhanushali hospital from the first visit itself I felt that my mom will be saved here as the doctor was so motivating and friendly they explained us everything and how we will be going ahead as Mom was supposed to have a Thoracic surgery for left lung to be removed completely. After two months my mom got operated By Dr Amol Bhanushali and now 5 years after the surgery my mom is living a very healthy and normal life, we do visit doctor in few months to check mom's health and also just to say thanks again and again ** **** **** **** * *** *** ** *** ***** ** *** **** * ***** ***** I strongly recommend people to visit Dr Bhanushali hospital for early diagnosis *** ****** ********* ***** **** *** ******* ******...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Amol H Bhanushali
Dr. Bhanushali Hospital & Centre for Chest Surgery
Swapnil Rogé
Effective Treatment for TB
When it comes to tuberculosis treatment, quality healthcare is essential and that’s exactly what Dr. Shah provides. He is composed and on point with his guidance. *** ********* *** ******** *** ********** **** ** ********* **** ** *******. The results were more than satisfying. He will also limit the visits to only when necessary and with each consult scale the progress that is being made. I have confidence in his treatment and highly recommend his services. ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Mehul Shah
Motiben Dalvi Hospital Pvt OPD
Shashank
Fully Satisfied With TB Treatment
Visited For Tuberculosis We visited Dr. Rajesh Swarnkar in Get Well Hospital for my father's treatment (Mr. Sunil Kumar Kashiv, Jabalpur). We are fully satisfied with the treatment and next visit scheduled next month for regular checkup. Dr. Deepak Muthreja treated first and recommended few neccessary tests and after getting those reports, Dr. Rajesh Swarnkar treated him. 1) They never seems to be in hurry and give us sufficient time to speak and they listen carefully. 2) Dr. Deepak tolds us to do certain test (the best part, they always tell us what is the purpose of each test). 3) It took us 6 pm to get all the test reports. 4) Dr. Rajesh checked all the reports, told us the disease, medicines and neccessary treatment. Fully satisfied with the treatment, I thank Dr. Deepak Muthreja and Dr. Rajesh Sawarnkar....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Rajesh Swarnakar
Get Well Hospital
Rohit
Satisfied With TB Treatment
I am seffered abdomen problem, my disease diagnosis tuberculosis in Dr. B. L. Jain, good treatment I am satisfied this treatment...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. B.L Jain
Mansarovar Hospital
Shweta Patil
Treatment for TB That Lasted 6 Years
My mom was suffering from TB from past 6 years which later turned out to be Multi Drug resistant TB with Left lung being completely damaged and the infection started spreading to the right lung. we consulted many doctors and many medications were given spending a huge amount monthly but we were not seeing any improvement in her, her health was getting deteriorated day by day. we almost lost all our hope as doctors started saying she cannot survive past 1 year like this. with a slight hope in our mind we visited Dr Bhanushali hospital from the first visit itself I felt that my mom will be saved here as the doctor was so motivating and friendly they explained us everything and how we will be going ahead as Mom was supposed to have a Thoracic surgery for left lung to be removed completely. After two months my mom got operated By Dr Amol Bhanushali and now 5 years after the surgery my mom is living a very healthy and normal life, we do visit doctor in few months to check mom's health and also just to say thanks again and again ** **** **** **** * *** *** ** *** ***** ** *** **** * ***** ***** I strongly recommend people to visit Dr Bhanushali hospital for early diagnosis *** ****** ********* ***** **** *** ******* ******...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Amol H Bhanushali
Dr. Bhanushali Hospital & Centre for Chest Surgery

Did you know?

2.2 Million People Develop T.B. in India Every Year

Each year about 2.2 million people develop TB in India and an estimated 220,000 die from the disease.

Over 1/3rd TB Cases In India Remain Undiagnosed

Over one third of TB cases in India are not diagnosed, or they are diagnosed but not treated.

2 Million People Have Latent TB

An estimated 2 billion people have latent TB.

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Home Remedies

Consume Garlic

The sulfuric acid in garlic destroys TB bacteria. Mix half teaspoon of chopped garlic, with one cup of milk and four cups of water. Boil it till it reduces to one–fourth of the volume. Drink the mixture three times daily.

Take Bananas

Bananas are an excellent source of nutrients and calcium and can boost your immune system if you are a TB patient. Alternatively you can take a ripe banana, mash it and mix it with one cup coconut water, half a cup of yogurt, and one teaspoon honey. Consume this mix twice daily.

Amla/Indian Gooseberry

Amla or Indian gooseberry, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It boosts the body’s immune system and enhances the body’s capacity to function properly. De-seed and five to six amlas and extract the juice in a juicer. Drink this juice at least twice a day, preferably on empty stomach every morning.

Take Black Pepper

Black pepper has anti-inflammatory properties which can cleanse bacteria and also help reduce the coughing caused by TB. You can take ground black pepper with black tea or add it to the food you are cooking.

Take Mint Juice

Mint leaves are very advantageous for treating tuberculosis due to their antibacterial properties. They help dissolve mucus,and also help prevent side effects caused by the medicines taken for tuberculosis. You can crush mint leaves in a juicer and mix a teaspoon of honey to it. Drink this juice everyday.
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