Symptoms, causes and treatment for TUBERCULOSIS (TB)

MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK - PART III
Image showing details about tuberculosis, including the treatment for TB

Tuberculosis or TB is a disease that has been forgotten over the years and rightly so since the treatment for tuberculosis (TB) was working and the number of patients have been on the decline. But over the last couple of years, with the pandemic hitting the world, the cases of tuberculosis have actually shown an increase. Simple reasons could be allocation of resources to COVID or a weaker immune system for people getting affected by COVID.

Will TB cause death? How many people die of TB?

TB, if not treated, is fatal. The number of cases of TB in India jumped from about 1.8 mn to 2.6 mn between 2020 and 2021, a reverse in the declining trend (https://tbfacts.org/tb-statistics-india/).  There are also an estimated million cases that go undetected every year.

The estimated fatality rate in TB is ~17% as of 2019 as per the National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (https://www.nhp.gov.in/revised-national-tuberculosis-control-programme_pg). 

So how TB is caused? How TB spreads?

There have been many myths around causes of TB, smoking leading the charts. While people who smoke are more prone to TB because of weaker lungs, smoking itself does not result in tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is known to affect the lungs but it can affect any part of the body; spine, kidneys and brain being the other most susceptible organs. Also, people with weaker immune system, particularly those affected with HIV, are highly susceptible to TB.

TB spreads when a person inhales this bacteria. When a person affected with TB coughs, sneezes or spits, the bacteria remains suspended in the air and when inhaled by a healthy individual, he / she can get affected by TB. It does not spread though hand shakes, sharing food or drink (through saliva), sharing linen etc.

Does everyone who inhales this bacteria become sick?

There are different stages in TB - Infection, latency and active TB. When someone inhales the bacteria, that falls under the first phase of infection.

Many a times, depending on primarily the immunity, the bacteria remains inactive. Such a person does not have TB and does not need any treatment for tuberculosis but has a chance of the bacteria becoming active at a later stage. Also, a person with latent TB cannot spread the bacteria.

The final stage is active TB, wherein the bacteria attacks the body tissues and causes symptoms and might prove fatal if not treated in time.

What are symptoms of TB?

  • Typical symptoms include :

  • Continuous cough for more than 3 weeks

  • Coughing up of blood,

  • Chest pain while breathing or coughing,

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss,

  • Fatigue,

  • Fever

  • Nght sweats

What is MDR TB?

It is a well known fact that if the treatment of a disease is stopped mid-way thinking "I don't feel sick", the pathogen remains in the body, can become immune to the existing medication and can become active at any point later. This is what happens with TB and makes it more difficult and expensive to treat - mutlidrug resistant TB. This phenomenon is seen more for cases of TB since it takes a long time to completely eliminate the bacteria while the symptoms go away soon. So either owing to negligence or financial reasons, people tend to stop the medication course and end up with TB which is resistant to the treatment regime they were on.

Is TB curable? What is the possible treatment for tuberculosis (TB)?

Yes, with proper care, tuberculosis can be cured. The government, under NTEP (National tuberculosis elimination program) is offering various support systems including free medication during the treatment of tuberculosis, incentive for reporting cases both for public and private hospitals, incentive to the patient to continue medication (a daily allowance) and many more. Ministry of Ayush has also also joined the battle against TB suggesting Panchkarma treatments (https://www.ayush.gov.in/docs/clinical_evaluation.pdf) as a cure for TB. 

At Chyavan Rishi Ayur Siddha also, we have tried to address this concern with our ayurvedic medicine for cough and TB, Chyavan KasaNirvah. This product works on the respiratory tract, it can take care of seasonal cough, sore throat,  phlegm generation etc. at one of the spectrum while it can also act as a cure for TB on the other extreme with continuous usage. 

If you would like to read up on the other blogs in this series called 'More common than you think', here are quick links for Urinary Tract Infection, Mental wellness, Constipation, Arthritis, Erectile dysfunction, Periodontitis / Pyorrhea, Anaemia, Kidney stones, Asthma, GERD / Acidity, Bloating