Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that most often affects the lungs and can be fatal. It is commonly caused by the bacterium known as mycobacterium tuberculosis. In many cases, the infection may cause no symptoms. However, in about ten percent of cases, an active infection with characteristic tuberculosis symptoms can develop, and these can be deadly in almost half of cases when left untreated. These tuberculosis facts are further amplified by the fact that the illness is contagious and passed from person to person through the air from the sneezing and coughing of infected individuals.
One of the most well known symptoms of tuberculosis is weight loss, and the phenomenon has been called “consumption” as a result. It often accompanies an active TB infection. Fever, fatigue and night sweats are also not uncommon. When other organs are affected side from the lungs, symptoms can vary greatly, depending on which organ or organ system is affected. Finger clubbing is an unusual although relatively common symptom of the condition.
However, one of the most common tuberculosis symptoms is a persistent cough. This cough may produce sputum that is bloody, a phenomenon referred to as hemoptysis. Since the lungs are involved in nearly nine out of ten cases of tuberculosis, coughing up blood occurs frequently as one of the characteristic symptoms of the condition. However, this symptom alone is not enough to assume that TB is the underlying cause, since many conditions may lead to blood in phlegm matter, including bronchitis, lung cancer and emphysema.
Bloody mucus may however represent one of the more severe complications of the condition, where the infection affects the pulmonary artery. This can result in a rare phenomenon known as a Rasmussen’s aneurism, a condition characterized by large amounts of bleeding. This condition is rare, however tuberculosis symptoms do often affect the respiratory system in various ways, given its predisposition to affect the lungs primarily.
A diagnosis of tuberculosis relies on many factors. In cases of asymptomatic tuberculosis, a skin test is most commonly used. This test is known as the Mantoux test, and it may be used alone or alongside blood tests in order to determine the presence of the infection when tuberculosis symptoms are not present. While the tuberculosis test done on the skin can help to identify cases of asymptomatic forms of the condition, often testing of tissue or sputum is needed in order to confirm a diagnosis in persons with an active infection. This is because basing diagnosis on tuberculosis symptoms alone can sometimes be challenging.
Prevention is important in managing the spread of the serious condition. The tuberculosis vaccine is one way in which the spread of the illness can be reduced. This vaccine however has some flaws as its effectiveness is reduced around a decade following administration, and declines thereafter. The vaccine is also less common in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, where incidences of the disease are much less prevalent. Thusly it is normally reserved for people that are higher risk such as those that work in hospitals or nursing homes. Prevention efforts are furthered by early identification of tuberculosis symptoms in persons with an active infection and prompt treatment in order to minimize the spread of the illness.
Tuberculosis treatment most often employs the use of antibiotics. However interestingly enough, the condition has a way of making antibiotics less effective than they are in the use of other types of infection. Therefore, it is not uncommon for multiple types of antibiotics to be used in the treatment of the condition, in order to break down the strong walled defenses of the infection as well as reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance from a one medication treatment approach.
Tuberculosis is a serious illness that can cause death if not treated promptly and properly. It is easily spread and unfortunately carried latently by many people, making transmission uniquely possible in a wide variety of circumstances. Prevention, early detection of tuberculosis symptoms, early diagnosis, and prompt treatment are essential to the successful outcome of tuberculosis.