Introduction and General Data
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The infection is transmitted by droplets of the saliva. This infection mostly affects lungs. However other organs may be affected as well and they include kidneys, brain and bones. In the beginning the disease is generally asymptomatic. In time the patient starts to complain about the evident symptoms and signs of the disease which include constant cough, loss of weight and nights sweats. The sputum contains blood.
The immune system may react to the bacteria differently. In majority of patients our immune system kills the bacteria. It can happen that bacteria cannot be killed but are surrounded by the inflammatory cells. This way the bacteria are neither dead but are also incapable to cause the disease. This type of tuberculosis is latent tuberculosis. The bacteria can, however, be activated in case that immune system weakens. And this type is actually an active form of the same disease present with all the symptoms and signs.
Complications of Tuberculosis
The bacteria can in time become resistant to the administered antibiotics. Fortunately Mycobacterium tuberculosis usually develops resistance to only one type of antibiotics and this antibiotic is replaced with another one. In case that bacterium develops resistance to two or more than two antibiotics the situation worsens. In these patients the treatment is rather long and lasts between eighteen months and two years. In that period several combination of antibiotics are used.
One of the complications can be permanent damage to the lungs. The patient will suffer from difficulties with breathing and this complication is present in neglected cases. Pneumothorax and plural effusion are additional complications that can affect lungs.
Bones can be affected by the bacteria as well. The bone tissue is destroyed and the patient complaints about intensive pain. Apart from bones, joints can be affected as well.
In case that infection spreads onto the brain membranes the tuberculous meningitis develops.
The kidneys can be affected by the bacteria as well and this is also one of the possible complications.
The worst possible complication is miliary tuberculosis which is the result of generalized spread of the infection.
Prevention and the Outlook
The best protection from tuberculosis is vaccination. Still the vaccine is not given to all the children but only to those who are at high risk of getting the infection. The people who are exposed to the bacteria are supposed to be vaccinated as well. They include medical workers, those who have been in contact with the infected people and those who are planning to go to foreign countries where tuberculosis is endemic.