Tuberculosis causes, effects, prevention and treatment

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Tuberculosis (TB) or pulmonary tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection that involves the lungs mostly, but can spread to other organs of the body. TB can be contacted by inhaling contaminated air droplets that can cause permanent lung damage.

Tuberculosis is one of the most widespread infectious diseases of serious public health concern, causing economic, health and social burden to both the  suffers and the society at large. Over 8 million new cases of TB occur each year worldwide. Tuberculosis is the second most common cause of death (kills almost 2 million people yearly) especially in developing nations.

One third of the world’s population is estimated to have been infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis, with new infections occurring at the rate of about one per second on a global scale. World Health Organization declared TB a “global health emergency” in 1993 and it remains as such presently. The global health challenge posed by TB is enormous.  This is the reason of this article that is supportive of target public awareness creation on basic facts on TB so as to trigger early reporting and relevant medical interventions on the parts of patients and healthcare providers, with the main trust of interrupting tuberculosis progression.

WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common preventable, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually mycobacterium tuberculosis. Progression from TB infection to overt (acute) TB disease occurs when the bacilli overcome the body immune system defenses; and begins to multiply and spread to many vital organs of the body. Tuberculosis primarily affects the lungs, but it can also attack organs in the central nervous system, lymphatic system and circulatory system among others; and can be diagnosed after a combination of medical tests. Tuberculosis may infect any part of the body, but about 90% of cases occur in the lungs (known as pulmonary tuberculosis). TB may become a chronic illness and cause extensive scarring in the upper lobes of the lungs. The upper lung lobes are more often attacked by tuberculosis than the lower ones may be because of the poor lymph drainage within the upper lungs.

THE ENTRY PORTS OF TUBERCULOSIS PATHOGEN AND IT’S SPREAD IN THE BODY

TB infection begins when the mycobacterium reach the pulmonary alveoli, where they invade and replicate within endospores of alveolar macrophages. Tuberculosis of the lungs may also occur via infection from the blood stream. If TB bacteria gain entry to the bloodstream from an area of damaged tissue, they can spread throughout the body and set up many foci of infection, all appearing as tiny and white tubercles in the tissues.

LEVELS OF RESISTANCE TO TUBERCULOSIS PATHOGEN

Tuberculosis can be contacted by inhaling air droplets when people with active pulmonary tuberculosis cough, sneeze, speak, sing or spit. It is not guaranteed though, that all contacts with TB-infected air particles will result to infection. Some people have strong natural immune systems that quickly destroy the bacteria once they enter the body. Others will develop latent TB infection, carrying the bacteria but will neither be contagious nor present symptoms. Still others will become sick immediately they inhale TB-infected air droplets and will also be contagious. In some cases, the disease becomes active within weeks after the primary infection.

GROUP OF PEOPLE MOST VULNERABLE TO TUBERCULOSIS INFECTION

People at high risk of active TB are the elderly, infants and health workers. Others are people with weakened immune systems due to previous exposure to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, diabetes or drugs that weaken the immune system.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF TUBERCULOSIS INFECTION

The general signs and symptoms of tuberculosis include:

  • Prolonged chronic cough (lasts for 2 or more weeks, usually with mucus).
  • Coughing up blood-tinged sputum.
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night.
  • Fatigue (lack of both physical and mental energy; and motivation).
  • Generalized tiredness.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Pain when breathing or coughing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Significant clubbing of the fingers or toes (in people with advanced disease).
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes near the heart and lungs, and in the neck or other areas.
  • Fluid around a lung (pleural effusion).
  • Unusual breath sounds (crackles).

TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF THE SPREAD OF TUBERCULOSIS

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection with drugs that fight the TB bacteria. Many different pills taken at different times of the day for 6 months or longer are required. It is very important that the pills are taken the way expert healthcare providers instructed. When people do not take their TB medications as instructed, the infection can become much more difficult to treat and that can result to permanent lung damage. The TB bacteria can become resistant to treatment due to carefree attention, especially on the part of patients. This means that the drugs can no longer fight tuberculosis.

When there is a concern that a patient may not take all the medications as directed, a healthcare provider may need to watch the person take the prescribed drugs. This treatment approach is called directly observed therapy. In this case, drugs may be given 2 or 3 times per week, as prescribed by a doctor. The patient may need to be confined at home or be admitted to a hospital for 2-4 weeks to avoid spreading the disease to others. The cascade of person-to-person spread can be avoided by carefully segregating those with active TB and putting them on anti-TB drug regimens under constant medical attention and supervision.

Symptoms often reduce in 2-3 weeks after starting treatment if pulmonary TB is diagnosed early and effective treatment started quickly. Prompt treatment is extremely important in preventing the spread of TB from those who have active TB disease to those who have never been infected with TB.

WE MUST CHECK TB BY AVOIDING:

  • Unprotected prolonged, frequent or close contact with people who have active TB and HIV.
  • Injection of illicit drugs and people who inject illicit drugs.
  • Crowded or unclean living conditions.
  • Poor nutrition and environment.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Habitual excessive alcohol intake.
  • Inadequate treatment or self-medication that can make drug-resistant strains of TB to thrive in the body.

WHAT WE MUST DO TO EASE THE IMPACT OF TUBERCULOSIS INFECTION

  • Ease the stress of TB by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help patients feel more in control of their TB status.
  • Promptly contact healthcare professionals for proper medical evaluation and treatment if signs and symptoms of TB are noticed.
  • Complete the vaccination of babies.
  • Contact your healthcare providers on how to prevent getting tuberculosis.
  • Certain drugs such as corticosteroids and infliximab that potentially promote TB should be taken under expert medical supervision.

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