When the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis enter the lungs, this often leads to an infectious disease more commonly known as Tuberculosis (TB). It mostly affects the lungs (Pulmonary Tuberculosis) but can also infect other organs of the body as well. TB is an airborne disease and spreads to highly susceptible individuals through droplet inhalation that has been dispersed in the air by the sneezes, coughs or even laughs of an actively infected TB individual.
However, if TB is not treated promptly and properly, active TB can progress to serious health complications. Not everyone who becomes infected with TB becomes sick and develops symptoms and mainly carry the dormant bacteria within themselves.
Those who spend long times around individuals with untreated Active TB are exposed to high risks of contracting an infection if they inhale the droplets. Those with compromised or weakened immune systems or have any underlying diseases are also at greater risk of developing Active TB. This disease is also mainly linked to poverty and closely associated with malnutrition as well as overcrowding of densely populated and unsanitary places.
Those with an Active TB infection can develop and exhibit the following symptoms:
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing and wheezing
- Fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent cough
- Sweating excessively, mainly at night
- Weight loss
Active TB can be treated by helping the patient fight the TB causing bacteria. Treatment options include:
- A combination of anti-Tuberculosis drugs, to be taken for six to nine months.
- Avoid contact with other people, by staying at home or being admitted to the hospital, to prevent the infection from spreading
- Drugs that need to be taken regularly as prescribed, until all of the bacteria is killed even if symptoms disappear, in order to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to the drugs used (cure rate is greater than 95% if the patient is compliant)
- If the Tuberculosis bacteria becomes resistant to the drugs used, a different set of drugs is used, which have greater side effects and need to be taken for a longer period
- The World Health Organisation DOT (Directly Observing Treatment) programme, which consists of supervising Tuberculosis patients to take the correct dosage and combination of their anti-Tuberculosis drugs
Complications and Related Diseases
If TB becomes resistant to multiple drugs, this can become dangerous and lead to life-threatening complications. Permanent lung damage can occur as well if TB is not recieved and the infection can spread to other organs within the body including but not limited to the gastrointestinal system, brain, bones and central nervous system, further exacerbating the condition.