Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

TB can Happen to Anyone

tb image28-year-old Minal Verma, working with Indian Bank got infected with tuberculosis. Below she recounts the disbelief, she went through, when she got diagnosed with this infection. There is a stereotype attached to the disease and the diagnosis shattered Minal’s falsely placed beliefs. Read ahead–

I never thought that even I could get infected with TB! After all this disease happened to vagrant labourers, people living in slums who were denied access to clean water and hygiene. I was living a comfortable life and generally, I believed that this was enough for me to screen against this contagious disease. From my childhood I had lowered immunity. In fact, the first change of weather and my mother saw me sneezing which would continue till the end of the season. To make the matters worse I was a picky eater. But, that’s the way I was. When I was in my late twenties, I lost my father. Dealing with his loss was an immense stress for me, but I carried on with my work. However, in those days, I wasn’t feeling well. I tried to dismiss the feeling thinking that I might have contracted viral infection, because virtually everyone in the office was running under the weather. Again, every change of weather would bog me down and this was the month of February, hence it was natural for me to fall ill. I was continuing with my work and managing home responsibilities as well, but I was getting tired so often. Once when I came back from work at 5 PM I didn’t even spend a minute with my daughter who was just two years old and straight away went to sleep. I woke up six hours later and found that I was drenched in sweat. Normally, I rarely sweat even in hot summer months. I told my husband about this, but he set aside my fears saying that I might have taken a Crocin before sleeping and the fever must have subsided, which had resulted in the profuse perspiration. Naturally, a warning bell rang in my mind that all’s not well with me. But then the humdrum of life took over. A month went by like this and one day I took my husband took to the doctor who was unwell and running mild fever. I was too coughing for a while then. As I’m asthmatic cough bouts run longer for me, which I did not take seriously.

Fortunately, as I was at the doctor’s clinic I thought that I should get myself evaluated too. Sitting across the doctor, I told her that I had been losing weight without trying and had been virtually living on Flexon, a painkiller as my body aches refused to go and no amount of rest could rejuvenate me. My appetite was poor and I wasn’t feeling well, perspired a lot while sleeping, though I was able to drag on with life.

My doctor heard my symptoms in rapt attention and asked me to undergo a couple of tests and chest X-ray. The reports were positive. I was suffering from tuberculosis infection. My first reaction was disbelief. What I heard next from my doctor was an eye opener, as she informed me that one in four people in India get an active tuberculosis infection in their lifetime.

I was given medicines (antibiotics) and for seven months I religiously had my medicines without fail everyday. In fact, my office drawer too had a strip of medicines, and after completing my medication I went to my doctor again who declared me tuberculosis free. I’m grateful to God that I took my symptoms seriously.

Expert speaks

The disease is silently spreading its tentacles in upper-middle class India. WHO report on South East Asia Region in the year 2005, ranks India number one as far as number of TB cases are concerned. The figures are scarier for women. TB is the biggest cause of death of women in the reproductive age. Though, we take TB as a pulmonary disease affecting lungs, other forms of TB—bone, brain and gland is on rise too. The trouble with these types is that none of them will test positive for sputum test often regarded as foolproof test to detect TB.

TB spreads by coming in close contact with people who have an active disease. However, getting an infection does not mean you are going to have a full-blown infection immediately. Normally, the disease remains latent in our bodies for a long time and becomes active when our immunity goes down.

Diagnosis of TB

• Sputum tests for TB bacteria
• Chest x-ray
• Skin tests for allergy to TB bacteria
• CT scan of the chest occasionally

Factors that cause TB

Poor immunity, crowded habitat, contact with a sputum positive patient, going on to crash diet and stress can cause TB.

Vaccines needed

BCG at birth

Latent TB infection: We also are exposed to TB in childhood. Our immunity takes care of it; this is latent TB. We can develop active TB later in life due to reactivation of the bacteria when our immunity goes down due to crash diets or stress.

Smear Negative testing: TB of the lungs with no bacteria coming out in sputum on testsing – as bad for the pt. but less of a health hazard.

Early recognition of warning signs: fever , cough for more than 3 weeks, blood in sputum , wt loss appetite loss.

Dr.Nevin Kishore, Senior Consultant Dept.of Respiratory Medicine , Max Healthcare

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