Tuberculosis disease patients are affected by a bacterial attack on the body. Most commonly this attack affects the lungs, although it is capable of invading any area of the body. In the past, this condition was known as consumption because patients would gradually waste away without proper treatment. After a patient has become infected, the bacteria multiply within the lungs, causing pneumonia. The lymph nodes are also affected and are generally inflamed. From this beginning, tuberculosis can easily spread to other areas. Patients who have weakened immune systems, such as the elderly population or diabetics, are more prone to contraction of the disease.

Tuberculosis symptoms and treatment

Specifically, the bacteria that most frequently is the cause of the disease is Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, other bacterial organisms can be the source. Variations of the disease that are caused by these other bacteria are known as atypical tuberculosis and are potentially more serious than the regular disease. Tuberculosis patients typically acquire the disease by inhalation of infected sputum ejected by other tuberculosis patients when they sneeze, cough, shout, or spit. It is not possible to contract the disease only by contact. The infected air must be inhaled to become infected. One rare atypical tuberculosis is caused by the consumption of unpasteurized milk. Tuberculosis symptoms can take many months to appear after infection, but are most commonly manifested as fatigue, fever, night sweating, and weight loss. As the condition gets more pronounced, tuberculosis symptoms can worsen to include chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing blood or other material. Additionally, as the infection spreads to other parts of the body, more symptoms can occur.

Tuberculosis around the world

In areas of the world where tuberculosis is more prevalent, the use of a vaccine is common to help children and infants avoid the disease. After contraction, some patients do not need any additional tuberculosis treatment as their immune systems are capable of dealing with the disease by surrounding infected areas with scar tissue. For patients who have inhaled the bacteria but do not have active symptoms, antibiotics will be used to control the infection. The most frequently used antibiotic is isoniazid. Taken for a period of half a year to a year, it will prevent the tuberculosis from becoming active. Tuberculosis treatment for patients who are already exhibiting active signs will be done with administration of a combination of medications in addition to isoniazid. The period of treatment can last several years until the infection is fully under control. In rare and severe cases, surgery on the lungs can help a patient recover when medication options have failed.

Although tuberculosis has been greatly reduced in many parts of the world, the infections still have the potential to be very dangerous. Advances in medicine, coupled with a general improved sense of sanitary conditions, have contributed to controlling the number of deaths related to tuberculosis disease.

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