Know all about symptoms of tuberculosis, its causes, and treatment

Dr. Rizwan Tanwar
February 12, 2021

There are several infectious diseases that are transmitted through the air and among the most dangerous is tuberculosis. This disease is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis, that primarily attacks the lungs, but may attack the brain, spine, or another part of the body. The early signs and symptoms of tuberculosis are hard to distinguish from those of the common cold. However, as the body continues to weaken, these will get much worse and can prove to be fatal. Cases of tuberculosis are lower in developed countries, owing to the living conditions and advanced antibiotics, but they are still quite concerning.  

In India, tuberculosis (TB) is common, with 1 million cases reported per year. Unlike other illnesses, there are two types of TB, latent and active, with the former being present in a few billion people. Those with latent TB have a strain of the disease that isn’t contagious until it becomes active. This can be triggered if the immune system is compromised, causing it to spread to others.  

With a cursory understanding of what tuberculosis is, and how widespread it isyou should know all you can about it. This prepares you and helps you stay aware of potential infectious signs. Here’s all you need to know about the different tuberculosis symptoms, causes, and prevention practices. 

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis? 

Typically, the symptoms of tuberculosis depend on the region of the body affected by the disease. If TB affects the lungs, which is the most common area, these are symptoms to expect:  

  • Coughing up blood 
  • Weight loss 
  • Fever 
  • Night sweats 
  • Appetite loss 
  • Persistent coughs 
  • Chest pain 

If tuberculosis is in the bone, the symptoms include severe pain, especially in the back, joint stiffness, and swelling. In other cases, such as a brain infection, the symptoms may include headaches, confusion, and seizures.  

The tuberculosis symptoms in a child can differ from those in an adult and, in fact, be more life-threatening if the child is young. You should be mindful of this and get your loved ones tested at the earliest. Additionally, TB can also affect new-borns and the effect of the various tuberculosis symptoms on babies can be quite alarming. TB may affect multiple organs, thus inhibiting physical growth, and cause a pneumonia that is difficult to treat. This disease is also hard to identify based on the signs alone. It is possible to exhibit tuberculosis symptoms without cough, which can tend to be bloody.  

Lastly, you may also exhibit tuberculosis symptoms on the skin. These may be in the form of rashes or lupus vulgaris, which causes you to develop ulcers or lumps. Keep an eye out for these indicators and seek medical care immediately.  

Who is susceptible to tuberculosis?  

Generally, those that have weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of getting TB. This includes those with conditions such as: 

  • Malnourishment 
  • End-stage kidney disease 
  • Diabetes  
  • Cancer 
  • HIV 

In addition to these, those with unhealthy habits of long-term alcohol, drugs, and tobacco abuse are more likely to get infected. Moreover, those that take medications that may suppress the immune system are at a high risk; for instance, those on medication for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and cancer.   

What are causes of tuberculosis? 

Tuberculosis is caused by the M. tuberculosis bacteria and it is transmitted through the air. This typically happens when the carrier either speaks, sings, coughs, laughs, or talks. However, only those with active pulmonary TB are able to infect others with the disease. Getting treatment for it is important because it is impossible to transmit this bacteria if you’ve received complete treatment.  

How is tuberculosis diagnosed? 

Getting yourself checked every few months is important to getting this disease diagnosed. Typically, tuberculosis is diagnosed through a physical examination where the doctor will listen to your lungs and check if you have any swelling in your lymph nodes. In addition to that, you may be asked to undergo the TB skin and TB blood test. These indicate that you may have the bacteria; however, you can’t know if it is latent or active TB. For this, you will have to undergo a chest X-ray and a sputum test.  

How is tuberculosis treated? 

Tuberculosis is treated with a course of antibiotics. The length and type of the antibiotics depends on the location of the infection, patient’ age, strain of TB, and the type of TB. Some courses of antibiotics may include requiring medication daily for 9 months and others may require just 1 antibiotic every few weeks. Some cases may warrant the need for corticosteroids.  

How can you prevent a tuberculosis infection? 

One way to prevent getting infected is to get vaccinated against TB. Thbacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine protects against some TB strains and it can be made part of the normal immunisation program. Besides that, it is important to check if you are working or residing in an area that has an increased risk of TB. If so, covering your mouth and nose with a mask can protect you against the bacteria.  

Being informed about the symptoms of tuberculosis, its treatment, and prevention practices is a good first step in combatting the disease. As mentioned above, it may be impossible to know if you have the disease, as it doesn’t present with symptoms in the latent stage. In such a situation, your best bet is to get tested and receive treatment for it, if you have it, at the earliest.  

With proper and guided care, tuberculosis can be treated completely. However, if medical care isn’t adequate, the bacteria can turn resistant to antibiotics. This is why it is important to seek care from the best specialists, which you can find easily with the Bajaj Finserv Health App. 

This unique, all-in-one digital solution ensures quick and easy access to quality healthcare through your smartphone. With it, you can identify the best physicians in your area within seconds. You can book appointments online too and also choose to consult with these specialists over video for remote care. Other notable features of the app include the ability to safely store your health records and access the health library to learn about different illnesses and natural remedies. This section can give you valuable insights into health problems and provide you with tips for preventive care tooTo access all these perks instantly, download the app for free from Google Play or the Apple App Store at the earliest.