Pulmonary Tuberculosis (PTB) is a lung infection that can be very serious, and is still a very common killer worldwide, especially in places such as Asia and Africa. Thanks to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the surfacing of drug-resistant strains, PTB is still a very common and serious illness.
PTB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread via droplets expelled by an infected person, who generally coughs or sneezes the bacteria into the air to be breathed in by others. It is extremely contagious.
PTB is characterized by coughing, which often produces phlegm or even blood, night sweats, chronic fatigue, a fever and unexpected weight loss. Patients may also find themselves unable to breathe very effectively or suffering from chest pain.
A doctor will usually perform a physical examination, looking for signs such as swollen lymph glands, fluid retention in and around the lungs and crackling sounds as you breathe. If PTB is suspected, the doctor may perform additional tests, including chest scans and inspection of any coughed-up substance, such as phlegm. A tuberculin skin test may also be performed to aid in diagnosis.
Treatment for PTB is generally relegated to drugs that are known to fight and kill the bacterium that causes the disease. Often, this includes numerous pills, multiple times daily, over a course of several months. Those who do not follow their treatment regimen through to the end can have a relapse of the disease.
The disease is relatively easily treatable and prognosis is good if treatment is properly followed. If left untreated, PTB can lead to permanent disability and death.