How to Recognize Symptoms of Tuberculosis
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How to Recognize Symptoms of Tuberculosis

What is tuberculosis and what are some of the symptoms and treatments for this disease?

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is a bacterial infection that most often targets the lungs, but can harm other organs as well. Although there are vaccines to curb the spread of this disease, about two million people die from TB each year. Some people have a latent TB infection (LTBI) where tuberculosis bacteria are present in their body, but they may not even know it because they do not have any symptoms, but it will show a positive result if tested. Those with a latent TB infection cannot spread the disease but will need treatment to prevent the disease from becoming active. Once the immune system cannot stop the TB bacteria from multiplying, the person becomes sick and this is called active TB, or TB disease. Those with an active TB infection can spread the disease to others through the air by coughing and is also transmissible by other means.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis Disease

The best way to find out for sure if a person is infected with tuberculosis is to get a test at a physician's office.

Some of the most common symptoms of a TB infection include a persistent chest pain sometimes accompanied by prolonged cough and coughing up of blood or thick phlegm. This usually lasts for several weeks.

Other symptoms can include weakness or fatigue, fever, night sweats, appetite loss and weight loss, the chills, and a change of skin color or someone looking more pale. Sometimes these signs might not prompt someone to assume they have TB, but if a person is feeling sick and has a persistent cough, especially when accompanied by any of these other symptoms, they should make an appointment to be evaluated by a medical professional and to get tested for tuberculosis.

Testing for Tuberculosis

Mot often a TST (Mantoux tuberculin skin test) or PPD test (tuberculin purified protein derivative) is given to determine whether someone is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB. A small amount of the protein derivative is injected into the forearm area and observed after 48 to 72 hours to see if there has been any reaction. It's important to note that this test will point out whether or not a person has been exposed to the bacteria, but it cannot tell whether or not the infection is latent or full-blown TB disease.

What Can Cause Latent TB to become Active?

Sometimes people who have been exposed to the TB bacteria fight off the disease on their own and essentially cure themselves. However, sometimes a latent TB infection can progress to TB disease. Some people at risk for TB disease if they are carrying the bacteria can include anyone whose immune system is weaker or compromised, such as those with HIV or AIDS, elderly people, those who are malnourished, and others whose health is compromised for any reason.

Treatment for TB

Those with a latent TB infection are commonly given the drug isoniazid (INH) for about six to nine months to prevent the TB from becoming active and multiplying and to kill the bacteria in the body. It's obviously easier to treat those with a latent infection since there isn't as much bacteria present as in those with TB disease (in which the bacteria have been multiplying).

For those with active infections, TB disease is usually treated with a combination of several powerful drugs, including antibiotics, for anywhere between six months to a year. This treatment is important to finish and to be taken as prescribed to ensure the bacteria is fully eliminated and doesn't become drug-resistant. Certain strains of TB can require treatment for up to two years.

Tuberculosis is not common in more developed countries, but those in high-risk environments, such as health care environments, drug-treatments centers, prisons, homeless shelters, and other fields should get immunization, or a vaccine, to prevent the risk of contracting tuberculosis. This is something that should be discussed with a doctor and not a decision one should make on their own.

If you think there was a chance you've been exposed to tuberculosis, it is highly advised to see your health care professional at once and get tested. Since this disease is airborne, not only is your own health at risk, but also the health of those you love.

Sources

http://www.cdc.gov/tb

http://www.hhs.gov/tb

http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/tuberculosis/Understanding/overview.htm

http://health.rutgers.edu/Immunizations/TB.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculosis

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Comments (2)

very good.voted up!

My husband is a firefigher and he has to have this test done every so often. Firefighters come in contact with so many people and can be a very dangerous job. Very good topic to write on and very well written. Very important test to have done especially if your dealing with people in your profession.

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