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Lungs and Respiration :
Tuberculosis / Pulmonary Tuberculosis / Lung Tuberculosis / TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common infectious and often deadly disease caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis. When it attacks the lungs, it is called pulmonary or lung tuberculosis.

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1. Who should get tested for TB?

People who have symptoms of TB. People who have had close day-to-day contact with someone who has active TB disease (this could be a family member, friend or co- worker.) People who have HIV infection, lowered immunity or certain medical conditions. People who are required for work in community are likely to come in daily contact with people or children. eg. school teacher.

2. What is Drug Resistant TB?

Sometimes, TB germs are "resistant" to one or more of the TB medicines most often prescribed by doctors. When this happens combinations of other TB medicines are given to the patient. Drug resistant TB can take longer to cure than regular TB, but most patients can be cured. Drug resistant TB develops when a person with active TB stops taking their medicine too soon, or if they have not been given the right TB medicine. A person with untreated drug resistant TB of the lungs or throat can transmit these resistant germs.

3. If someone gets TB, can it be treated easily?

Yes, TB can usually be treated easily. However a person with TB must take the proper medications for many months (usually at least six months). If a TB patient stops the medication early or misses many doses of medicine than the TB can come back. The kind of TB that comes back can be more difficult to treat.

4. How is TB treated?

TB is usually treated with four medicine taken together once a day. The medicines are usually Isoniazid, Rifampin, Ethambutol and Pyrazinamide. Most people are also given vitamin B-6. Depending on how the medicines have been prescribed, the doctor treating TB may stop the ethambutol and pyrazinamide after the first two months of treatment.

5. What happens if I discontinue the medicine?

The primary stage of tuberculosis infection is usually without symptoms, ignoring the disease at this stage will allow it to progress to the secondary stage, or allow it to flare up later. Many a times, if there are symptoms, they start to disappear and you may start feeling better after a few weeks/months of treatment. If treatment is discontinued at this stage, or medications are not taken as prescribed, the bacteria will have an opportunity to develop a resistance to the drugs, and treatment will become ineffective later on. If you are diagnosed with active TB disease, take the medicines as prescribed by the doctor to avoid future complications.

6. How long does TB need to be treated for?

Most of the time TB is treated for six to nine months. Some types of TB need to be treated even longer. It is very important that people with TB not stop their treatment before this time even if they are feeling better. TB that is not treated long enough can come back. When the TB returns, it may be harder to treat.

7. If you have HIV, is it easier to get sick with TB?

It is much easier for people with HIV infection to get sick from TB. However, if you have HIV, your doctor can help prevent you from getting TB by performing frequent TB skin tests and treating you with INH if you test positive.

8. What are the common side effects of anti TB drugs and how to manage them?

The common side effects while on anti TB drugs are Nausea, vomiting, headache, joint pains, vision disturbance . Many of these side effects are mild, if so you need not worry as they are transitory as one's body gets accustomed to the drugs. In case they are of a severe nature do consult your doctor.

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