Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis that affects the lungs. Tuberculosis can be spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.
TB is usually life-threatening to people with weak immune systems, especially those living with HIV and those taking medication that suppress the immune system. However, you can live with TB as the body’s natural defenses can control the infection. There are different types of TB, as there is a difference between being infected with the TB bacterium and having active tuberculosis disease.
Three types of TB stages
Exposure – the exposure stage happens when a person has been in contact with or exposed to a person who has TB. An exposed person presenting with symptoms must conduct a skin test and a chest X-Ray to determine if they are infected.
Latent TB infection – the latent stage happens when a person has TB bacteria in their body but does not have symptoms of the disease and cannot spread it to other people. The infected person’s immune system walls off the TB organisms, leaving the TB inactive throughout life (this happens to most infected people). The person would have tested, and the results would be a positive skin test but a negative chest X-ray.
TB disease – TB disease is when a person has developed active TB and is showing signs and symptoms of the infection; as a result, the body produces inflammation that can damage the lungs. The person would have tested, and the results would be a positive skin test and a positive chest X-ray.
Treatment is highly recommended once you have been diagnosed with TB. If not treated, approximately 50% of patients die within five years, while morbidity illness increases significantly in others. It is crucial to complete the entire course of treatment because if you stop too early, the bacteria can start growing again and become resistant to medications, making it much harder to treat.
Therefore, when living with TB, you will take medication on a schedule for several months, which can be easy to forget. Here are some tips to assist you with living with TB:
- Set calendar reminders and alarms on your phone when it is time to take your medication.
- Use a weekly pill box to keep organised.
- Have a family member or friend help remind you.
- Tell your doctor if you miss a dose and ask what to do.
Active TB infection is contagious and potentially life-threatening if a person does not receive appropriate treatment. However, TB is treatable in most cases, especially when doctors detect the disease early.
Consult with an Intercare healthcare professional if you have signs and symptoms of TB. Early detection saves lives. https://www.intercare.co.za/bookings