The treatment for tuberculosis is quite long and complex, since it requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes not only the administration of medications, but also medical monitoring and psychological and social support for the patient suffering from this disease.
The treatment for tuberculosis combined with therapy: what is it, and how does it work?
In recent years, important advances have been made in the treatment for tuberculosis, including the development of new drugs and combination therapies. However, significant challenges remain in the treatment for tuberculosis, especially in developing countries, where the disease is more prevalent and resources are limited.
We know that, firstly, before any doctor prescribes any medication, the patient must be diagnosed correctly or test positive for the disease, otherwise no type of treatment should be indicated to a person, since it could cause different types of consequences in your body at a physical and psychological level.
To diagnose a tuberculosis infection, the health care provider will do a physical test where they should listen to your breathing with a stethoscope, finding alterations or some abnormality in case the affectation has reached the lungs or respiratory tract. Check for swelling of the lymph nodes or nearby areas, they should also ask questions about what other kinds of symptoms the person reports if tuberculosis is suspected.
If your doctor prescribes some type of treatment for tuberculosis, you must first undergo a series of tests.
Types of tests for the diagnosis of tuberculosis:
A small amount of a substance called tuberculin is injected under the skin on the inside of the forearm. Within 48 to 72 hours, a health care professional will check the injection site on the patient’s arm for swelling. The size of the raised skin is used to determine a positive or negative test, as the case may be.
This test consists of seeing if your immune system reacts, or if it has generated an antibody, against tuberculosis. A positive test indicates whether you have a latent tuberculosis infection or active
A sample is taken and sent to a laboratory. A laboratory test determines if certain cells of the immune system can “recognize” the bacillus of tuberculosis.
A chest X-ray may show you an irregular area in the lungs, which are a common sign of active tuberculosis.
Your health care provider can take a sample of the phlegm that comes up when you can cough or phlegm, also called sputum.
A probably rapid laboratory test can determine whether the sputum is likely to contain tuberculosis bacteria, but it can also detect bacteria with similar characteristics that may make a differential diagnosis.
Results can sometimes take a few weeks. A laboratory test can also determine if it is a drug-resistant form of the bacteria.
Other laboratory tests that can be good for this:
- Breath test.
- Procedure to remove sputum from the lungs with a special tube.
- Analysis of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain, called cerebrospinal fluid.
Treatment for tuberculosis
Once a diagnostic test has been carried out, and it has been positive for tuberculosis, your doctor can prescribe a drug treatment. This procedure is followed especially with people who have HIV/AIDS or other factors that increase the risk of contracting active tuberculosis, especially in people with a compromised immune system.
In most cases, latent TB infection is treated for three to four months.
Treatment for tuberculosis can last four, six, or nine months. Specialists in the treatment for tuberculosis will determine which are the appropriate medications in your case.
This is why you will have to attend periodic appointments so that the doctor can evaluate your improvement and examine you to detect the possibility of side effects.
Properly take medications when appropriate
It is important that you take the doses as directed. In addition, you must complete the treatment for tuberculosis. This is essential to eliminate bacteria from the body and prevent new drug-resistant bacteria from emerging.
Your local public health department may use a program called directly observed therapy. In directly observed therapy, a health care worker visits you at home to check that you are taking your medications as prescribed.
Some health departments have programs that allow you to take medications on your own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers forms that can be printed and used to keep track of daily doses.
The most frequently used drugs for the treatment for tuberculosis:
You may only need to take one or two types of medication. Active tuberculosis requires taking several medications.
- Rifampicin (Rimactane).
- Rifabutin (Mycobutin).
- Rifapentine (Priftin).
- Ethambutol (Myambutol).
You should take into account that, the doctor may prescribe you other medications, even slightly stronger ones, if you have drug-resistant tuberculosis or other complications derived from this disease.
Can these medications cause side effects?
Many people can take treatment for tuberculosis, like medicine, without having to experience serious side effects. If you are experiencing some type of serious side effect, your health care provider may ask you to stop taking a medication, to directly assess why your body’s reaction to the medication occurred. You may need to change the dose of a medicine.
Talk to your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite.
- Severe diarrhea.
- Light-colored stools.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowish skin or eyes.
- Vision changes.
- Dizziness or balance problems.
- Numbness in the hands or feet.
- Tendency to bruise or bleed.
- Weight loss without apparent cause.
- Tiredness without apparent cause.
- Sadness or depression.
- Stomach ache.
- Joint pain.
It is important that, you always make a list of all the medicines, food supplements or herbal remedies that you take, so that you can maintain extreme control, and your GP can more quickly and efficiently deduce and identify the cause of possible side effects. You may need to stop taking some during treatment as well.
Tips you need to know:
- Take the medications as prescribed by your doctor. It is important to take the medications at the correct dose and time to ensure that the treatment is effective. If you have questions or concerns about how to take your medications, talk to your doctor.
- Take steps to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease. If you are infected, it is important that you take steps to prevent the spread of the disease, such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and maintaining good personal hygiene.