India reported around 26 lakhs Tuberculosis cases in 2020, calculated to be 27% of the total cases worldwide.
Tuberculosis is commonly referred to as TB. It is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis which mainly affects the lungs. However, this infectious disease can also spread to other parts like the kidneys, spine, and brain. Being an infectious disease, it is spread through the air. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they make the air highly contagious.
Individuals with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to contracting this disease. Malnourished individuals or people with HIV or other health conditions that weaken the immune system are also at a higher risk.
But what is Chronic Tuberculosis? This blog will help you learn about chronic Tuberculosis, Tuberculosis causes, and symptoms. At the end of your reading, you will be able to uncover how Chronic Tuberculosis is curable.
What is Tuberculosis?
Caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB or Tuberculosis is an infectious disease. It spreads through the air and affects mainly the lungs. In some cases, TB might also affect other body parts.
Although curable, this disease can be fatal if not treated on time. People with weak immune systems are vulnerable to getting infected with this disease. It is the reason why Tuberculosis is a global health concern. Its cases are higher in areas with poor living conditions and high malnutrition rates.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
One of the most unfortunate facts about Tuberculosis is that people infected with inactive TB do not exhibit any symptoms. However, they can be diagnosed with a blood or skin reaction test.
A person with active type might show the following Tuberculosis symptoms:
A bad cough
What are the causes of Tuberculosis?
To be precise, Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. But how does an individual get infected by this bacterium?
Individuals with active Tuberculosis in their voice box or lungs release tiny droplets in the air when they cough, sing, laugh, speak or sneeze. When another healthy person breathes in this air, they contract the disease. People who spend time indoors with an infected person are more likely to get infected. Additionally, Tuberculosis spreads more easily in areas with crowded gatherings.
Individuals with Active Tuberculosis might easily pass the infection to others if they are not on treatment. They can also spread the infection up to 2-3 weeks of being on medication for Tuberculosis treatment of Active TB. But, a person with a Latent TB infection cannot pass it to others.
How does Tuberculosis become chronic?
Tuberculosis becomes Chronic Tuberculosis when the body's immune system fails to eliminate Mycobacterium tuberculosis and becomes drug resistant. Upon the failure of bacteria elimination, it can evade the immune system by cluster or granuloma formation.
Although the granulomas formed by the bacteria become dormant or calcified, the bacteria in them live for several years. As a result, whenever the person's immune system weakens again due to a severe infection like HIV or other health conditions, this bacteria might become active and cause Tuberculosis. It is now known as Chronic Tuberculosis.
Several factors contribute to turning Tuberculosis into Chronic Tuberculosis. Some of the most common causes of Chronic Tuberculosis are:
Inadequate or incomplete treatment: If a person fails to get adequate or complete treatment, the bacteria might not get eliminated from the body.
Drug-resistant TB: The TB bacteria might become drug-resistant, making it difficult to eliminate it from the body.
Weak immune system: The immune system of people with HIV or AIDS or malnourished individuals is quite weak. Hence, if a person with HIV, malnutrition, or AIDS is infected with Tuberculosis, it becomes difficult to fight the bacteria. These individuals are at a higher risk of developing Chronic TB. A weak immune system is also a common cause of developing Chronic TB in old aged people and the ones who smoke regularly.
Diabetes: Treating Tuberculosis in individuals with diabetes is difficult. Hence, if the TB virus infects a diabetic person, they are at a higher risk of developing Chronic Tuberculosis.
Genetics: Some people are genetically more vulnerable to Chronic Tuberculosis.
Delayed diagnosis: In addition to delayed treatment, late diagnosis of the disease can also be one of the Chronic Tuberculosis causes. It increases the risk of developing Chronic Tuberculosis because the bacteria get more time to multiply and spread the infection in the body.
Symptoms of Chronic Tuberculosis
A wide range of Chronic Tuberculosis symptoms can be observed in an infected person depending on the severity of the infection. Some of these symptoms are:
Coughing up blood
Loss of appetite
Swollen lymph nodes
Is Chronic TB curable?
Fortunately, Chronic Tuberculosis is curable. However, the period for its treatment is longer than that of latent or acute TB. To treat Chronic Tuberculosis, a combination of antibiotics is prescribed for 12 to 24 months. They work to achieve the complete elimination of bacteria from the body.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis might become drug-resistant in some cases of Chronic TB, making treating the disease much more challenging. It is when the doctors use alternative antibiotic regimens that cause various side effects making the treatment difficult to tolerate.
Neglecting the seriousness of Tuberculosis can result in detrimental outcomes. Individuals with symptoms of TB must consult their healthcare expert immediately for early diagnosis and timely treatment. This is essential to prevent TB from becoming chronic. However, if one has developed Chronic Tuberculosis, they must get it diagnosed in time and take prompt treatment to avoid severe issues. Taking the full course of treatment and following your doctor's guidelines can help you get rid of the disease and get back to your normal life, which is free from any suffering.
I hope this blog gave you some insights into this seemingly scary condition. I tried my best to break it down for you amidst the complex world of data that is only designed to scare you. After reading this blog you will be able to face the symptoms and its treatment in a much more aware way.
Until next week!
The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.