Every year on March 24, the government, activists and celebrities step up and raise awareness around tuberculosis. That’s because the day is dedicated to World TB Day. As efforts are made to end the global TB epidemic, on World Tuberculosis Day 2023, we should go back to the basics. Let’s start with the symptoms of tuberculosis, and night sweats is an early sign of the disease. When you wake up drenched in sweat, don’t start blaming your nightmare or electricity issues. It might be a sign of tuberculosis.
According to World Health Organization, at least 10 million people get affected by TB every year. It is a curable and preventable disease, but it’s been given the title of the world’s top infectious killer. That’s because 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis each year, as per WHO. Approximately, half of all people with tuberculosis can be found in eight countries, including India.
To know about the symptoms of tuberculosis, HealthShots connected with Dr Jayalakshmi TK, Consultant, Pulmonology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.
Tuberculosis, which is a contagious disease, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Dr TK says that it is spread through air when a person infected with TB coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by sharing needles that are contaminated or through sex.
Night sweats a sign of tuberculosis
Night sweats has many causes, but it can be a sign of tuberculosis. That holds particularly true if night sweats are accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, cough and fever, says the expert. So, if you suddenly lose weight, don’t be too happy about it. At a time when people are experiencing heatwaves, sweating might seem like a natural thing. But night sweats are different from sweating at other times of the day because they happen while you are sleeping. They can often soak through your clothes and even bedding.
Other common symptoms of tuberculosis are –
• Cough with sputum, sometimes accompanied by blood
• Chest pains
Who is at risk?
Dr TK says that women specifically tend to delay seeking treatment and so, are at higher risk for delaying diagnosis of TB. Due to the social stigma associated with the disease, often treatment gets delayed or improperly taken. So, women should not ignore any persistent cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss, or fatigue, as these could be signs of tuberculosis. Other symptoms specific to women may include pelvic pain or unusual vaginal discharge.
People who have weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, malnutrition, or diabetes, are at greater risk of developing TB. According to WHO, tuberculosis and HIV is a deadly combination. Two years ago, more than 186, 000 people died of HIV-associated tuberculosis.
Apart from HIV infected people, Dr TK says that those who live in crowded or poorly ventilated environments and those who use tobacco or alcohol are also at increased risk.
Treatment for tuberculosis
It all depends on the specific strain of the bacteria causing the infection, as well as individual factors such as age, overall health, and the presence of any other medical conditions. However, tuberculosis is generally treated with a combination of antibiotics that need to be taken for several months.
The good news is that lives of about 66 million people were saved through tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2020, as per WHO. So, knowing the symptoms and tuberculosis and getting yourself checked, are very important.