• 27 NOV 17
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    Tuberculosis: Diagnosis and Treatment

    Tuberculosis: Diagnosis and Treatment

    Tuberculosis is such a chronic disease if left untreated can lead to death. The most common form of TB is lungs TB but it can affect other parts of the body also. Tuberculosis can be Active or Latent. In case of latent TB, there is no specific symptom. Active TB commonly occurs commonly in lungs and cough, chest pain, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, chills are some of its common symptoms.Tuberculosis is of two types, pulmonary tuberculosis, and extrapulmonary tuberculosis. When TB affects mainly the lungs it is called pulmonary tuberculosis and when TB occurs in other parts of the body it is called extrapulmonary tuberculosis.

    Tuberculosis infection can occur in body parts such as bones and joints, lymph glands, Pleura, meninges, genito-urinary tract, skin, bowel, and pericardium. It is important to diagnose tuberculosis at early stages. There are several kinds of tests available to diagnose TB. The symptoms of TB should not be neglected as this can lead to disability. Tuberculosis is although contagious but it spreads only through the airborne infection. TB is curable and preventable also.


    Diagnosis of TB is done on the basis of its early symptoms. Following are the diagnostic methods used to diagnose the presence of bacteria in TB:

    Physical Examination: Initially doctor checks the lymph nodes for swelling using a stethoscope and listen to sounds of lungs during breathing.

    Tuberculin skin test: This test is performed to check whether a person is infected with TB or not. In this test killed germs are injection into the skin and if the person is infective then a lump will be formed at the site of injection.

    TB Blood Test:  This is called as Interferon Gamma Release Assay or IGRA. This test is done to check the presence of TB germs in the body or not. Their tests are of two types:

    1. QuantiFERON®-TB  2. T-SPOT®.TB


    Sputum test: This testing is done with the help of culture in a lab. The sputum is tested to check the infection under the microscope in a lab.

    Chest X-ray or a CT scan: During X-ray of chest cavities are seen in case of pulmonary TB. If the infection is not active then x-ray may come out to be normal.

    The above tests reveal whether the person is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria or not. Then based on these studies physician starts the treatment


    Treatment of Tuberculosis involves the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The treatment of TB is prolonged. Latent TB can be treated using a single antibiotic while to treat Active TB combinations of antibiotics are used as to avoid the risk of antibiotic resistance. People diagnosed with Latent TB are treated so as to avoid the risk of getting Active TB in future. Chances of curing the patient are quite high if the disease is diagnosed at early stages.

    Treatment of TB is based upon the use of antituberculosis drugs. These drugs are the first choice treatment for tuberculosis. The main drugs under this category are:

    1. Isoniazid (INH)
    2. Rifampin (RIF)
    3. Streptomycin (SM)
    4. Ethambutol (EMB)
    5. Pyrazinamide (PZA)


    These drugs are supposed to have maximum bactericidal activity so these are used for the treatment of tuberculosis. The dosage of these drugs depends upon the age and weight of the patient.

    As per the latest theories, complete course of TB lasts for 6 months.This treatment includes:

    1. Combination of Rifampicin, Ethambutol, Isoniazid, and Pyrazinamide for the first two months
    2. Only Isoniazid and Rifampicin for the last four months


    These medicines have side effects too. Generally, these are not very much serious but can be dangerous if occur. These can be harmful to your life. So if anybody experiences following side effects then they should consult the doctor immediately:

    1. Nausea and vomiting
    2. Dark urine
    3. Jaundice
    4. Loss of appetite
    5. Long lasting fever


    Drug-resistant TB: When the bacteria causing TB becomes resistant to one of the main TB drugs i.e isoniazid or rifampicin then it is called as drug-resistant TB or MDR (Multi-drug resistant) TB. The treatment of drug-resistant TB is always more difficult and costly than the susceptible TB. Treatment may last up to 2 years. This treatment is complicated and uses second-line drugs for treatment. If drug-resistant Tb is not managed appropriately then it can lead to life-threatening conditions.

    Completion, of course, is must for TB patients. Patients start feeling better after a treatment of few weeks and then they feel like stopping the medicines. Although it is difficult to take these medicines for longer durations as they have a lot of side effects but stopping the course in between can cause drug resistance. Then it becomes quite complicated and treatment is costlier for this type of TB. So it is very important to complete the therapy. For such patients, Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) is recommended. Use of BCG vaccine can help to prevent the risk of TB. Despite being a deadly and infectious disease, TB is still curable, and preventable. Now a day’s many pieces of research are going on this field to eliminate the TB from its root and to give patients the best possible treatment.

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