Tuberculosis is a serious condition however there are many effective treatment options that can significantly improve quality of life. In this article, we will delve into the various treatment approaches we provide to help you breathe easier and lead a healthier life.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, often referred to as TB, is a contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs but can also target other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. Tuberculosis is spread through the air when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing tiny droplets containing the bacteria into the surroundings.
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis can present with a variety of symptoms, and they can differ depending on whether the infection is active or latent. Here, we’ll focus on the symptoms associated with active tuberculosis:
Persistent cough: A cough that lasts for more than three weeks is one of the most common symptoms of active tuberculosis. The cough may produce phlegm or blood in some cases.
Fatigue and weakness: General fatigue and weakness are typical signs of active tuberculosis. Patients may feel tired even after minimal physical exertion.
Unintended weight loss:Significant and unexplained weight loss can occur in individuals with active tuberculosis. This is often accompanied by a loss of appetite.
Fever and night sweats: People with tuberculosis may experience fevers, particularly in the evening or at night. Night sweats, where the individual wakes up drenched in sweat, are also common.
Chest pain:Persistent chest pain or discomfort may arise due to inflammation in the lungs or surrounding tissues.
Shortness of breath: As tuberculosis progresses, breathing difficulties and shortness of breath may become more noticeable.
Swollen lymph nodes: In some cases, tuberculosis can cause the lymph nodes, especially in the neck or armpits, to swell and become tender.
What tests can help diagnose tuberculosis?
When it comes to diagnosing tuberculosis, lung function tests play a pivotal role in evaluating the health and capacity of the respiratory system. These tests provide valuable insights into the functioning of the lungs, helping medical professionals identify potential abnormalities:
Spirometry is a fundamental test that measures lung function by assessing how well a person can inhale and exhale air. It evaluates parameters such as forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). In tuberculosis cases, spirometry can reveal obstructive or restrictive patterns, indicating airway obstruction or impaired lung expansion, respectively. By comparing the results with normal values, doctors can gauge the extent of lung impairment caused by tuberculosis.
DLCO gas transfer
The Diffusing Capacity of the Lungs for Carbon Monoxide (DLCO) test measures the lung’s ability to transfer gases from inhaled air to the bloodstream. In tuberculosis, inflammation and damage to the lung tissue can hinder this gas exchange process. A reduced DLCO value may indicate impaired lung function due to tuberculosis-related changes, such as fibrosis or alveolar damage.
Lung volume test
Lung volume tests provide critical information about the total lung capacity (TLC), functional residual capacity (FRC), and residual volume (RV). These measurements help identify hyperinflation or decreased lung volume, which can occur in advanced tuberculosis cases. Detecting changes in lung volume aids in understanding the progression and severity of tuberculosis-related lung damage.
6 minute walk test
The 6 Minute Walk Test (6MWT) evaluates a patient’s exercise capacity and functional mobility. While not specific to tuberculosis, this test can be useful in assessing how tuberculosis has impacted an individual’s physical endurance and exercise tolerance. Reduced distance covered during the 6MWT may indicate significant lung impairment caused by tuberculosis.
What medications are used to treat tuberculosis?
The treatment of tuberculosis typically involves a combination of several medications, known as anti-TB drugs. This combination therapy is essential to effectively treat TB and prevent the development of drug-resistant strains. The standard treatment regimen for TB consists of four primary medications, often referred to as the first-line drugs:
- Isoniazid (INH): Isoniazid is a potent anti-TB drug that targets actively dividing TB bacteria. It is a key component of the standard TB treatment regimen and is highly effective in killing the bacteria.
- Rifampin (RIF): Rifampin is another critical first-line drug used to treat TB. It works by inhibiting the production of RNA in the TB bacteria, ultimately leading to its destruction.
- Ethambutol (EMB): Ethambutol is an important companion drug in the TB treatment regimen. It works by interfering with the formation of the TB bacteria’s cell wall, hindering its growth and multiplication.
- Pyrazinamide (PZA): Pyrazinamide is the fourth first-line drug used in the initial phase of TB treatment. It is effective against dormant TB bacteria, which may not be susceptible to other drugs during this phase.
The initial phase of TB treatment usually lasts for about two months and includes all four first-line drugs. After the initial phase, the continuation phase follows, typically lasting for four to six months. In the continuation phase, Isoniazid and Rifampin are continued while Ethambutol and Pyrazinamide may be stopped.
In some cases, drug-resistant TB may be encountered, requiring different medications, known as second-line drugs. These drugs are used in more complex cases and are often associated with longer treatment durations and increased potential for side effects.
Some examples of second-line anti-TB drugs include:
It’s crucial for TB patients to complete their entire course of treatment as prescribed by their healthcare provider, even if they start feeling better. Failure to complete the full course of treatment can lead to treatment failure, relapse, or the development of drug-resistant TB strains, which are more challenging to treat.
As with any medication, anti-TB drugs may have side effects, and it is essential for patients to communicate any adverse reactions to their healthcare provider promptly. A well-managed TB treatment plan, tailored to each patient’s needs, ensures the best chance of recovery and prevents further spread of the disease.
What else can help with the treatment of tuberculosis?
Several other factors play a crucial role in the successful treatment of tuberculosis, including;
- Directly Observed Therapy (DOT)
- Nutritional Support
- Patient Education
- Infection Control
- Supportive Services
- Regular Medical Follow-up
- Screening and Contact Tracing
- Addressing Comorbidities
- Environmental Improvements
How can Manse Medical help with tuberculosis?
In the majority of cases, Manse Medical can aid with tuberculosis diagnosis, at which point they become part of a discharge plan in which the patient sees a separate specialist for ongoing follow-up and management.
For more information, book your appointment online by selecting your preferred clinic and choose from the list of our available specialists.