Tuberculosis is one of the leading contagious diseases across the globe. It is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the lungs, although it could also affect any other part of the body such as the brain, spine, pelvic region etc. As per the World Bank recorded data of 2014, 2 in 10,000 people in the UAE suffer from Tuberculosis (TB).
TB is an infectious condition that spreads through air, just like common cold. However, TB is not as easy to catch as a common cold. There is a considerable lack of awareness among the population about the grave consequences of TB on a person’s health. Despite the fact that TB is a preventable and curable disease, it is still a major cause of death among people these days. Even if one person in the family develops the condition, he may pose a serious risk to the others. The Tuberculosis germs take time to develop in a person’s body, people get infected with the condition when they spend too much time with or around people who are already infected with the disease. People with TB generally spread the bacteria through coughing, sneezing or even talking.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that mainly grows inside organs of the body that are rich in blood, which is why its most common occurrence is in the lungs. This condition is known as Pulmonary TB. It is Pulmonary TB that is of the risk of being contagious. Tuberculosis if left untreated can spread to other parts of the body, namely; skin, bone and joints, brain, stomach, genitals etc. Extrapulmonary TB is when the disease spreads to other parts of the body from the lungs through the bloodstream.
Of all the kinds of tuberculosis, genital TB is one that is not much talked about, because people are unaware that TB could occur even in the genitals. This condition can occur in men and women. In males, the condition affects the testis, prostate, scrotum skin, penis etc. Female genital tuberculosis affects the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
Pelvic TB (PTB) is in fact, a silent but deadly condition that may be present in the body for years, without any visible symptoms. Male genital tuberculosis is a rather unusual presentation and it is usually found in older men. PTB in men may manifest itself with symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, sweating, chills, fever etc. Genital TB in men is often mistaken for other bacterial infections like tumors or fungal diseases.
However genital TB in women is fast emerging as a major health concern. Symptoms of pelvic TB in women are pain during menstruation, pain during intercourse, pelvic pain, acute back pain, fluid collection in the abdominal cavity etc. It has also become one of the causes of infertility in women because the bacteria infects the ovaries, uterus and the fallopian tubes, hence reducing a woman’s ability to conceive. The condition, if diagnosed and treated at an early age, can be healed, although the disease could cause scarring of the ovaries and uterus which may not heal completely. Women with pelvic TB have higher chances of an abortion.
The major concern with TB is that it doesn’t manifest in the form of symptoms until the condition has advanced to a severe level. People generally disregard the diagnostic tests for TB during infertility, unaware of the fact that it could actually be the cause of infertility. Treatment options for Pulmonary and Extrapulmonary TB are the same, i.e. the aim is to eradicate the infection causing bacteria with medications for a period of 6-9 months. The medications for TB only help to destroy the bacteria, there are other tests to determine the level of involvement of the tubes.
It is extremely necessary to create an awareness among people about Tuberculosis and its consequences. It is with this aim that each year, 24th March is recognized as World Tuberculosis Day. This year, the theme of World TB Day is to ‘Unite to End TB’.
Tuberculosis is one the leading infectious killers globally and the disease does not discriminate, it could occur to anyone. Till date there are a number of myths surrounding the disease, a few being; Tuberculosis is a hereditary disease which is untrue. TB cannot be genetically transferred, people from the same family could be infected however. Another common myth is that TB cannot be prevented or treated; TB is definitely curable provided it gets diagnosed at a considerably early stage. Vaccinated individuals believe that they are protected from TB, vaccinations are preventive measure and will surely help babies from developing any serious condition but the effect does wear out in adults.
World TB day is an opportunity for all to educate each other about the various facades of TB and break the myths surrounding it. On the road to eradicating TB, we must all unite to end TB.
Dr Sandeep Pargi,
Specialist in Respiratory Medicine
Aster Hospital, Mankhool