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Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that is caused by bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria mostly affect the lungs, but it is not limited to the particular part of the body as it can attack other body parts, including kidneys, spine or brain. However, if treated early, the effects cannot be adverse but if there is a delay in treatment, the disease might have fatal consequences.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis, gets spread through the air, when an individual suffering from the disease coughs or sneezes and releases the bacteria into the atmosphere. People nearby will breathe in the bacteria. The rate of transmission from an infected person to other people will highly depend on the amount of the droplets released in the air during coughing or sneezes and ventilation of the place. If an infected person releases many droplets while coughing or sneezes, there are higher chances of transmission. If the room is well ventilated, there are chances that the droplets released while coughing or sneezes will be rendered ineffective by the large amount of air circulation.
The symptoms of tuberculosis infection will range depending on the type of infection. Latent tuberculosis infection never develops to tuberculosis disease. It occurs on individuals with strong immune system whose immune system on being attacked by the bacteria fights them and ensures that the effects remain unnoticeable. The people infected with latent tuberculosis do not display any symptoms to suggest that they have an infection.
However, if the immune system is weak, it will not offer enough defence to the body against the bacteria. Such people are termed as sick, and they can spread the bacteria to other uninfected people. Following are the symptoms that such individuals will display:
- Long-lasting coughs going for 3 or more weeks;
- Pains in most parts of the body, especially in the chest;
- Sputum that is mixed with blood;
- Fatigue and weakness during simple activities;
- Loss of appetite;
- Excessive sweating, especially at night;
- Finger clubbing.
Tuberculosis will only bring complications if there is no early treatment. The complications will mostly be fatal as the disease spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body through the blood stream. Some complications include the following:
There might be the development of drug-resistant tuberculosis if it goes for a long time without treatment or if the treatment is irregular. If the drugs get administered without following the recommended dosage and there occur cases of underdose, there are higher chances that the Tuberculosis bacteria will mutate and become resistant to the drug. The drug-resistant Tuberculosis will be hard to treat and might take more than one year to have it completely treated.
Tuberculosis may lead to the long-term damage of the lungs. If not given attention early enough, the bacteria will multiply in the lungs at a high rate. Multiplication of the bacteria at such high rate will infect the lungs and cause serious damage to them, some of which might be irreversible. The extent of damage will be exhibited by the patient coughing up huge amounts of blood with the sputum.
Tuberculosis may lead to extensive organ damage. If the patient is late to seek medical attention, the bacteria will spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver. Once the bacteria are in these organs, it will lead to extensive damage of them as the bacteria will multiply in those organs.
If the amount of bacteria in the lungs is massive and they spread to the eyes, it may cause eye problems. The bacteria will cause eye irritation, where an individual has swell on both the retina and other parts of the eye. Continued exposure of the bacteria will lead to the chances of poor eyesight or in worse cases even to the loss of eyesight.
Tuberculosis is curable in most cases if treated with the appropriate antibiotics. Pulmonary Tuberculosis that affects the lungs is treated by a six month dose of antibiotics, according to the dosage prescribed by a physician. However, the time that is taken for different people to start feeling better will depend on different individuals but the dose must be completed.
Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis that occurs outside the lungs should be treated with a similar combination of antibiotics as the one used to treat pulmonary Tuberculosis but, however, the antibiotics have to be taken for twelve months. If the bacteria have spread even to the brain, corticosteroid prescription might be needed so that the swelling of the brain is reduced. The prescription will be taken along with the other antibiotics.
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Latent Tuberculosis is almost impossible to treat if it is drug-resistant. Instead of embarking on treating it, there should be a follow-up to establish the extent of damage to the immune system. If the bacteria have not done damage to the immune system, it may be left untreated but if the bacteria have caused noticeable damage to the immune system, it is to be treated using some antibiotics.