Science and technology have advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few decades. Many illnesses are now completely preventable, and several have even been eradicated. Unfortunately, tuberculosis (TB) is not among them. This is a serious, often life-threatening illness that affects millions of people across the world each year.
The silver lining is that it is curable with the right treatment protocol. However, treating tuberculosis can be quite expensive if you are not financially prepared for this emergency. That said, with a comprehensive health insurance plan, you can cover the costs of treatment more easily. You can even supplement this coverage with OPD health insurance to meet the costs of diagnosis tests, routine checkups, X-rays and consultation fees.
Even if you do have health insurance, it is advisable to take all the necessary measures to ensure that you do not contract tuberculosis, in the first place. To keep this disease at bay, you need to first understand what it is and how it spreads.
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is a serious bacterial illness that is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) bacteria. It mainly affects the lungs and can spread from one person to another when a patient with the disease coughs, sneezes or even talks. Although the illness is highly contagious, it may generally take prolonged and closer personal contact to spread the bacteria from one person to another.
Tuberculosis illness can be either latent or active. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of infection.
Latent TB infections do not result in any symptoms. People with latent tuberculosis may not present as sick individuals, and in most cases, the immune system contains the infection so the bacteria does not replicate and spread. However, latent TB also needs to be treated at the earliest, so it does not progress into an active disease.
Active TB, on the other hand, occurs when the body’s immune system is no longer able to contain the bacterial infection. This results in evident symptoms, depending on the organ or organs affected by the bacteria. The risk of developing an active infection from latent TB is higher in the following categories of people:
- People with a weak immune system
- Children and older adults
- People who regularly use recreational drugs
- People who have not been vaccinated against TB
What Organs Does Tuberculosis Affect?
Although most cases of tuberculosis present as a lung infection, the illness can affect various organs and systems in the human body. The symptoms depend on the site of infection. Here is a closer look at the different organs that TB can affect.
In pulmonary tuberculosis, the TB bacteria affect the lungs primarily. The symptoms include cough, fever, chills, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Extrapulmonary TB is the term used to refer to tuberculosis of organs outside the lungs. There are different types of extrapulmonary tuberculosis, such as:
- Miliary tuberculosis, which involves infection throughout the body
- Genitourinary tuberculosis, which affects the kidneys and genital organs
- Meningeal tuberculosis (TB meningitis), which affects the membranes around the brain and spinal cord
- Peritoneal tuberculosis (TB peritonitis), where the abdominal cavity is affected
- Pericardial tuberculosis (TB pericarditis), which affects the pericardium
- Tuberculous lymphadenitis, which affects the lymph nodes
How is Tuberculosis Diagnosed?
Depending on the site of infection, medical practitioners may use different tests and scans to diagnose TB. Generally, the TB skin test or the TB blood test is used to identify if there is an infection due to tuberculosis bacteria in the body. However, to verify if the infection is latent or active, additional tests like X-rays, CT scans and MRIs may be necessary.
What is the Treatment Protocol for Tuberculosis?
Since tuberculosis is a bacterial illness, it is treated using potent antibiotics. The antibiotics course may range from 6 to 9 months, depending on the severity of the illness and the type of antibiotics taken. It is important to complete the course fully, so there is no risk of the bacteria becoming drug-resistant and causing further complications.
How to Prevent Tuberculosis?
There are some steps that you can take to prevent developing a tuberculosis infection. Here’s what you can do.
- Keep your distance from infected people
- Wear a mask to prevent infection
- Get regular health checkups
- Get a TB vaccine if you have not been immunised against the infection
When left untreated, tuberculosis can be fatal and may even lead to death. This is why it is important to receive timely medical intervention and treatment. You will also need to undergo periodic scans and diagnostic tests to check the effectiveness of the treatment and ensure that the infection is being fought off.
All of these medical treatments and tests can lead to massive bills. However, with a health insurance plan like OPD insurance, critical illness insurance or comprehensive medical insurance, you can easily manage these costs without compromising on the quality of the treatment.