Tuberculosis or TB, as it’s commonly called, is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain and spine. A type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes it. Click To Tweet
How Tuberculosis Spread?
Through the air, just like a cold or the flu. When someone who’s sick coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs or sings, tiny droplets that contain the germs are released. If you breathe in these nasty germs, you get infected.
TB is contagious, but it’s not easy to catch. The germs grow slowly. You usually have to spend a lot of time around a person who has it. That’s why it’s often spread among co-workers, friends, and family members.
Tuberculosis germs don’t thrive on surfaces. You can’t get the disease from shaking hands with someone who has it, or by sharing their food or drink.
Types of Tuberculosis
A TB infection doesn’t mean you’ll get sick. There are two forms of the disease:
Latent TB: You have the germs in your body, but your immune system stops them from spreading. That means you don’t have any symptoms and you’re not contagious. But the infection is still alive in your body and can one day become active. If you are at high risk for re-activation — for instance, you have HIV, your primary infection was in the last 2 years, your chest X-ray is abnormal, or you are immunocompromised, your doctor will treat you with antibiotics to lower the risk for developing active TB.
Active TB disease: This means the germs multiply and can make you sick. You can spread the disease to others. 90% of adult cases of active TB are from the reactivation of a latent TB infection.
Symptoms of TB
There aren’t any for latent TB. You’ll need to get a skin or blood test to find out if you’re infected.
But there are usually signs if you have active TB disease.
- A cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling tired all the time
- Night Sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor to get tested. Get medical help right away if you have chest pain.
Risk factors of Tuberculosis
A healthy immune system fights the TB bacteria. But if you have any of the following, you might not be able to fend off active TB disease:
- HIV or AIDS
- Severe kidney disease
- Head and neck cancers
- Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
- Low body weight and malnutrition
- Medications for organ transplants
- Certain drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis
- Babies and young children also are at greater risk, because their immune systems aren’t fully formed.
Skin Test of Tuberculosis
This is the most common way doctors diagnose tuberculosis. A tiny amount of fluid called tuberculin gets injected just below the skin in your forearm. It contains some inactive TB bacteria. You should feel a small prick from the needle.
You’ll go back to your doctor 2 or 3 days later, and the doctor will see if you’ve had a reaction. If you have a raised, hard bump or there’s swelling on your arm, you have a “positive” test. That means TB germs are in your body. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have active tuberculosis disease.
If you don’t have a reaction, your test is “negative” and you don’t have TB germs in your body.
If you’ve had a positive TB skin test in the past, you’ll probably have a positive test again in the future. So there’s no reason to have a skin test again because it can trigger a painful reaction where you get the shot.
Sometimes a doctor will repeat a TB skin test. The test might falsely show you don’t have TB, especially if you’ve been exposed to TB in the past. A false positive test may also happen if you’ve been vaccinated with the TB bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine.
If your first test was negative, a second test can be done a week or two later on your other arm. If the second one is positive, you’ll need more tests.
What are the blood test available for Tuberculosis?
In June 2012 the Indian government Ministry of Health and Family Welfare banned the manufacture, import, distribution and use of serological test kits for the diagnosis of TB.
TB PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
This TB test is performed on a sample of blood to measure the level of TB PCR in the blood.It is performed to confirm Tuberculosis and also during the treatment and after the treatment of Tuberculosis.
A rapid and timely diagnosis of tuberculosis is thus essential to combat this disease. The tests based on PCR have shown promise for the detection of mycobacteria in clinical samples.
QuantiFERON-TB Gold (Tb Gold Test)
QuantiFERON-TB Gold (QFT) is a simple blood test that aids in the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria which causes tuberculosis (TB). QFT is an interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) release assay, commonly known as an IGRA, and is a modern alternative to the tuberculin skin test
Culture Test for TB
TB a very contagious bacterial infection that is spread through the air. The test can be done on a sample of sputum. This is the mucus you cough up from your lungs. Or the test can be done on urine, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood, or other tissue. The sample is put into a small dish with a substance that helps bacteria grow. This is known as a culture. After a period of time, the dish is checked to see what type of bacteria are growing. This test looks for bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
They’re a useful option if you’ve had a negative TB skin test or if you’ve had the BCG vaccine.
If your blood test is positive, it means you’ve been infected with TB germs. You’ll be given other tests to see if your tuberculosis is active.
Imaging Test for Tuberculosis
If a skin or blood TB test is positive, your doctor may give you a chest X-ray. They will look for abnormal spots on your lungs or any changes caused by TB.
Few other types of Tuberculosis
Genital tuberculosis (GTB) is one of the major causes for severe tubal disease leading to infertility. Unlike pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), the clinical diagnosis of GTB is difficult because in the majority of cases the disease is either asymptomatic or has varied clinical presentation.
TB of the uterus is widespread in different parts of India. Commonly referred to as Uterine Tuberculosis. Most of the cases of TB of the uterus were reported to have arrived at the stage they were in because of negligence in the infection’s infancy. It may be difficult to diagnose the disease when the infection has only begun spreading. The symptoms surface only after almost 10-20 years. Here are some of the symptoms of TB of the uterus that must be given immediate attention.
- Menstrual disturbances.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Pelvic pain.
- Unexplained fever over a prolonged period.
- Vaginal discharge.
Can tuberculosis kill you?
A person with TB disease is contagious for as long as they have TB symptoms. If untreated, it will probably kill you and could spread to people who live and work with you.
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