Every year on March 24, the globe observes World Tuberculosis (TB) Day and though most people believe that tuberculosis only affects the lungs, the disease may also damage other organs. The lungs, or the body’s pulmonary system, are the most usually affected by tuberculosis yet it can also damage other organs, a condition known as extrapulmonary tuberculosis where additional organs that might be affected include the lining of the lungs (pleural TB), the central nervous system (TB meningitis), bone and joints (musculoskeletal system), lymph nodes, the belly (abdominal TB), the kidney and bladder (urogenital TB) and blood so, literally every system of the body except hair and nails!
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Samir Garde, Pulmonologist at Global Hospital in Mumbai’s Parel, explained, “Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial illness that most frequently affects the lungs. Other organs, such as the kidneys, spine, or brain, might be impacted as well. TB is mostly transmitted through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also create an active infection after not being active in someone who has previously been exposed. There is a distinction to be made between being infected with tuberculosis germs and having active tuberculosis illness.”
He revealed the phases of tuberculosis as:
1. Exposure. This occurs when a person comes into contact with the TB bacilli due to exposure of droplets of another person who has lung tuberculosis. A normal chest X-ray, and no indications or symptoms of the illness will be observed in the exposed person.
2. Infection with latent tuberculosis. This occurs when a person has tuberculosis germs in their system but no symptoms of the disease. The immune system of the diseased individual protects the TB germs. In most persons who are infected, the TB remains dormant throughout their lives. This person would have a positive skin or blood test for tuberculosis but a normal X-ray or just showing scars (since the immune system battled the bacterial invasion) in the chest X-ray. Other regions of the body would show no evidence of current infection.
3. clinical Tuberculosis (TB). This person would display signs and symptoms of an active tuberculosis infection. The individual may have a positive or negative skin or blood test for tuberculosis and a positive chest X-ray, sputum sample showing evidence of active TB or other result indicating current illness.
Talking about the potential TB complications, the health expert shared, “If pulmonary tuberculosis is not treated early or properly, it can cause long-term (permanent) lung damage. TB can also infect the bones, vertebrae, brain and spinal cord, lymph glands, and other bodily components. It can harm such regions, resulting in either short-term (temporary) or long-term (permanent) effects. Uncontrolled tuberculosis can be fatal. Nevertheless, tuberculosis remains one of the biggest infectious causes of mortality globally.”
Suggesting what one can do to avoid tuberculosis, Dr Samir Garde recommended:
- Having a robust immunity is most important
- One should have a high protein diet (please consult your physician / your nutritionist for this).
- Also do regular physical exercises including walking/jogging in open fresh air, Yoga, weight training etc
- Keep your co-morbidities like diabetes, cardiac, kidney condition etc under check
- Take regular follow ups with your physician in case you are on immune modulating medicines (eg: Rheumatoid arthritis, chemotherapy for cancer, immune suppressing medicines after organ transplant etc)
- In children BCG vaccination is one of the most important interventions to prevent any severe type of TB.