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Fighting Tuberculosis: Recognising its Types & Symptoms

Dr Rishika Agarwal 1880 Views
Updated: 17 Jan 2024
Published: 13 Dec 2022
Signs of Active TB(Tuberculosis)

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is an infectious disease that often affects the lungs. TB can also spread to other body parts and hence, it is termed a multi-systemic infectious disease. This infectious disease dates back to 8000 BC. But it is quite active in India and many other countries around the world even today. The World Health Organization’s report suggests that there were more than 2.79 million tuberculosis cases in India in 2016. Also, in 2015, more than 1.8 million deaths were recorded from TB worldwide. The numbers are indeed concerning. Fortunately, treatment for TB is available. It might take a few months and multiple medications, but TB can be cured. For that, however, you will need a proper diagnosis and you must know when to see the doctor. 

There are certain symptoms that can indicate tuberculosis. You should also know about the different types of tuberculosis. Read on as this article discusses the different types and symptoms of TB along with its causes and risk factors.

Causes of tuberculosis

Before you learn how to recognise the types and the symptoms, let’s get an idea of what causes tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread through the microscopic droplets an infected person releases into the air while coughing, sneezing, speaking or spitting. That being said, there are some risk factors of tuberculosis.

Weak immune system

If you have a lower immune system, you have a higher chance of catching TB. This is why people with HIV face more risks of Active TB than people without HIV. People with diabetes, kidney diseases and people going through cancer treatments also have a high risk.

Substance use

Excessive alcohol intake and IV drugs can weaken your immune system and increase the risk factors.

Tobacco use

Tobacco increases the chance of catching TB and also makes treatment tougher.

Regular contact with infected people

If you work in the healthcare system, have a TB patient in your family or come in contact with infected people often, you have a huge risk of catching TB. Make sure to contact a doctor and take the required precautions.

Complications

When not treated properly, tuberculosis can be fatal. It becomes an even more concerning issue because of its drug-resistant strains. Some TB germs have become resistant to medicines over time. It makes the treatment challenging. 

Recognising the types of tuberculosis by symptoms 

You can recognise the types of tuberculosis by looking for certain symptoms and doing certain tests. 

Active TB and its symptoms

Active TB can be recognised by different symptoms. The patient will feel sick and be contagious. It can affect the lungs and many other body parts. Active TB can be of different types based on the body part affected. Pulmonary TB attacks the lungs and Extrapulmonary TB involves body parts outside the lungs. 

Symptoms of Pulmonary TB

The following symptoms can be alarming.

  • Coughing for three or more weeks
  • Blood or mucus in cough
  • Pain while coughing or breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms of extra Pulmonary TB

Apart from the common signs and symptoms of tuberculosis, there might be some other indications for the different types of Extrapulmonary TB. 

  • TB lymphadenitis involves the lymph nodes. It can be recognised by fever, fatigue, sudden weight loss and night chills.
  • Skeletal TB spreads to the bones from lymph nodes or lungs. It can cause swelling and severe back pain. 
  • Miliary TB spreads all over the body. The symptoms depend on the affected body part. For example, your red blood cell count will be low if your bone marrow is affected. 
  • Genitourinary TB affects the kidneys, urinary tract and genitals. It can lead to pain during urination, swelling in the testicular and irregular flow of urine. You may also notice pelvic and back pain.
  • Liver TB affects the liver. Its symptoms include high fever, jaundice, pain in the upper abdomen and liver enlargement. 
  • TB meningitis spreads to the meninges. It can bring persevering headaches, pains and aches.
  • TB peritonitis leads to the inflammation of the peritoneum, a tissue covering the inside of the abdomen and the organs. This may cause vomiting and nausea. 
  • Cutaneous TB affects the skin. The symptoms include lesions or sores in hands, elbows, feet, the area behind the knee and buttock. 

Latent TB and its symptoms

You may have a TB infection but no symptoms. This is because you have latent or inactive TB. This kind of TB patients do not show any commonly known TB symptoms and are not contagious. But the risk factor remains. Latent TB can turn into an active TB. It can be triggered by any disease like HIV or medicine that weakens the immune system. 

Recognising the types of tuberculosis with tests

The doctor will do a physical check-up and order some tests. The tests that can help diagnose tuberculosis are skin tests, blood tests, imaging tests and sputum tests. 

Tuberculosis is a huge health concern and it must be treated timely. Do not hesitate in contacting a doctor if you have any symptoms or come in contact with any infected person. The sooner you get the diagnosis the faster you can start the treatment and get better. Listening to the doctor’s advice and completing the prescribed medication is absolutely important. We must mention some preventive methods too. If anyone is diagnosed with TB, staying at home, wearing masks and covering the mouth while talking, coughing or sneezing can stop the TB germs from spreading. Also, avoid habits that can weaken your immune system.

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