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When should one go for a TB or tuberculosis test?

Symptoms of tuberculosis can be vague, so know when you should reach the doctor's clinic for a test.

Written by Debjani Arora |Published : May 4, 2018 3:52 PM IST

Most often people are diagnosed with TB or tuberculosis when the condition has reached a detrimental stage. This is one reason why most doctors are facing the unavoidable challenge of treating people with drug-resistant TB or multi-drug resistant TB. Tuberculosis that is an airborne disease caused due to Mycobacterium Tuberculosis bacteria is highly contagious and if not treated in time it can turn to be life threatening too. Here are 10 FAQs on tuberculosis answered by an expert.

For doctors, the job of diagnosing and treating it accurately doesn t get any easy. One has to prescribe the right combination of drugs to eradicate the TB strains from the body. Since the bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics the treatment can be called successful only when a patient sticks to the course of antibiotics prescribed and completes it. Read to know why a bacterial infection like tuberculosis is life-threatening.

But in reality, most people fail to stick to the treatment. A TB treatment can last from six months to a year. When one fails to take the medications and complete the course the bacteria gain resistance against the drug and turns to become drug resistant. So, when the treatment is continued after the symptoms resurface it becomes complicated and unmanageable to treat. However, it might not reach to that point if preventive measures are taken like, going for a TB test on time, getting checked and treated when the infection is at a nascent stage, etc. Read to know why India is at the threat of multi-drug resistant TB.

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The symptoms of TB are also so vague that one fails to pick up the cue until it is too late. The most common symptoms are a persistent cough, loss of appetite, blood in a cough, unexplained fatigue and weight loss among others. Here is a handy do and don'ts guide for TB patients and their family members.

However, experts believe that for a cough that is persistent for more than three weeks with other symptoms like loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue etc should be checked by a doctor pronto. To get a clear picture about when one should precisely reach the doctor for a TB test, we spoke to Dr Arvind Kate, Chest Physician and Pulmonologist at Zen Hospital, to know more, here is what he had to say. You need to go for a TB test when:

  • If you have a cough that refuses to go despite treatment and care and is persistent for more than three weeks accompanied by signs of loss of appetite, weight loss etc.
  • If you have spent too much time with someone who has TB disease or is getting treatment for the same.
  • If you work in a high-risk setting like a hospital or live in a crowded place where the number of people affected with TB is high.
  • If you have infants, children and adolescents who are exposed to adults who are at an increased risk for latent tuberculosis infection or TB disease, get them checked.
  • If you have been in the vicinity of tuberculosis patient and inhaled the air they coughed out or exhaled.

In some cases, if someone is in close proximity to a Tuberculosis patient he/she might develop latent TB where the tuberculosis bacteria remain inactive in the body but can become active later. Some people with latent tuberculosis don t need a treatment and the infection might go away on its own. In other cases, a latent TB might later become active TB and pose a health risk. So, people with latent TB need to be monitored regularly. People who are prone to developing active TB from latent TB are:

  • People suffering from HIV infection or other immune-suppressing diseases
  • People who have compromised immunity while suffering from diabetes or being on immunosuppressive drugs
  • People who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system like being treated for cancer or are on chemotherapy
  • Elderly people, as age, in general, make one s immunity compromised
  • People who were not treated correctly for TB in the past or had stopped their treatment mid-way

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