What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a specific infectious disease caused by the TB bacillus. The disease primarily affects the lungs. It can however cause disease in any organ of the body. The disease has a slow onset and is a chronic testing one if untreated.

South East Asia has the highest number of TB cases in the whole world. TB continues to be a major public health problem in India. The overall prevalence of infection is about 30% compared to 2-3% in developed countries.

The human source of infection is the commonest, with sputum positive for TB bacillus, and from those who have either received no treatment or not fully treated. The incubation period from receipt of infection to the development of positive Mantoux test ranges from 3-6 weeks. It is spread by airborne droplets containing bacteria from an infected person with a cough.

Clinical Features

1. Primary Pulmonary Tuberculosis: Prevalent in children.

(a) Enlarged lymph glands in the neck, the thorax, low-grade fever.
(b) Healing may take place spontaneously, later evident as a small calcified nodule (Ghon’s lesion).
(c) Pleural effusion due to penetration of bacilli into the pleural cavity from an adjacent focus.
(d) Cavitary TB.
(e) Spread to other organs by blood.

Post Primary TB (Adult Type)

(a) High oxygen content of air at the tip of the lungs localises TB in the lungs.
(b) Destruction of lung tissue.
(c) Extensive cavitation, destroyed lung.
(d) Tuberculous pneumonia.
(e) Fibrosis of lungs (scar formation)

Clinical Features (General)

1. Low-grade fever (flu-like), evening rise.
2. Night sweats.
3. Weight loss, wasting of the body.
4. Loss of appetite, weakness, malaise, anemia.
5. Cough with hemoptysis.
6. Chest pain.

Management

1. Consult a doctor immediately.
2. Treatment with anti TB drugs is a prolonged one.

Prevention

1. Immunisation at birth.
2. Avoid recurrent lung infections.

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