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Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, popularly known as Koch's bacillus (BK), which enters the body through the upper airways and lodges in the lung or other parts of the body.
Symptoms of tuberculosis are usually related to where the bacteria are found, and respiratory symptoms such as dry cough and blood, chest pain and difficulty breathing are more common.
It is important that the person consults an infectious disease specialist or general practitioner as soon as the first symptoms suggestive of tuberculosis appear, as this is how it is possible to start early treatment, which is usually done with a combination of antibiotics.
Tuberculosis symptoms are mainly related to the development of the bacteria in the lungs, and there may be a dry and persistent cough with or without blood, weight loss, chest pain when coughing and difficulty breathing.
However, when the bacteria develops in other organs, it is possible that other symptoms such as excessive tiredness, night sweats, fever and swelling in the place where the bacteria are installed may appear. Know other symptoms of tuberculosis.
Types of tuberculosis
According to the place where the tuberculosis bacteria settles and develops, tuberculosis can be classified into some types, the main ones being:
- Pulmonary tuberculosis: It is the most common form of the disease and occurs due to the bacillus entering the upper respiratory tract and lodging in the lungs.This type of tuberculosis is characterized by dry and constant coughing with or without blood, with coughing being the main form of contagion, since the droplets of saliva released through coughing contain Koch's bacilli, which can infect other people;
- Miliary tuberculosis: It is one of the most serious forms of tuberculosis and occurs when the bacillus enters the bloodstream and reaches all organs, with a risk of meningitis. In addition to the lung being severely affected, other organs can also be;
- Bone tuberculosis: Although it is not very common, it occurs when the bacillus manages to penetrate and develop in the bones, which can cause pain and inflammation, which is not always initially diagnosed and treated as tuberculosis;
- Tuberculosis of the lymph nodes: It is caused by the entry of the bacillus into the lymphatic system, and may affect the nodes of the chest, groin, abdomen or, more often, the neck. This type of extrapulmonary tuberculosis is not contagious and curable when treated correctly;
- Pleural tuberculosis: It occurs when the bacillus affects the pleura, the tissue that lines the lungs, causing intense difficulty in breathing. This type of extrapulmonary tuberculosis is not contagious, however it can be acquired by coming into contact with a person with pulmonary tuberculosis or being an evolution of pulmonary tuberculosis.
It is important that the type of tuberculosis is identified by the infectious disease specialist or general practitioner according to the symptoms presented by the person and the results of tests, so that it is possible that the appropriate treatment can be started to fight the bacteria and, thus,, prevent the development of the disease and the emergence of complications.
In the case of pulmonary tuberculosis, the diagnosis can be made by performing a chest x-ray and examination of the sputum with a search for the tuberculosis bacillus, also called AFB (Alcohol-Acid Resistant Bacillus) screening.. To diagnose extrapulmonary tuberculosis, a biopsy of the affected tissue is recommended.A tuberculin skin test, also known as the Mantoux test or PPD, can also be performed, which is negative in 1/3 of patients. Understand how the PPD is made.
Learn more about tuberculosis, types and how the diagnosis is made in the following video:
How the transmission happens
Tuberculosis transmission can happen through the air, from person to person through the inspiration of infected droplets released through coughing, sneezing or talking. Transmission can only occur if there is pulmonary involvement and up to 15 days after starting treatment.
People whose immune system is compromised by disease or age, who smoke and/or consume drugs are more likely to be infected by the tuberculosis bacillus and develop the disease.
Prevention of the most serious forms of tuberculosis can be done through the BCG vaccine in childhood.In addition, it is recommended to avoid closed, poorly ventilated places with little or no sun exposure, but it is essential to keep away from people diagnosed with tuberculosis. See how tuberculosis is transmitted and how to prevent it.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for tuberculosis is free, and therefore, if the person suspects that they have the disease, they should go to the hospital or he alth center immediately. Treatment consists of the use of tuberculostatic-type drugs for about 6 consecutive months or according to the guidance of the pulmonologist. In general, the treatment regimen indicated for tuberculosis is a combination of Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol.
In the first 15 days of treatment, the person must be isolated, as he can still transmit the tuberculosis bacillus to other people. After this period, you can return to your normal routine and continue using the medicines. Understand how tuberculosis is treated.
Tuberculosis is curable
Tuberculosis is curable when the treatment is done correctly according to the doctor's recommendations. The treatment time is around 6 consecutive months, which means that even if the symptoms disappear in 1 week, the person should continue taking the medication until the 6 months are complete. If this does not happen, the tuberculosis bacillus may not be eliminated from the body and the disease may not be cured, in addition, there may be bacterial resistance, which makes treatment more difficult.