Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that usually affects the lungs. It is possible to develop TB when bacteria is spread through droplets in the air. While TB can be fatal, in many cases it is preventable and can be treated.
Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and it is a major public health concern in many developing countries. The World Health Organization reported that smoking causes 9% of deaths worldwide and research has shown that there is an association between tobacco consumption and TB.
Moreover, tobacco consumption is also associated with negative prognosis of TB. While smoking may affect many organs in our system, the lungs suffer the most damage. Smoking damages the lungs and impacts the body’s immune system which makes smokers more prone to TB infection.
Links between tuberculosis and tobacco consumption have long been suspected. Recent studies have made the connection more evident. While smokers are at a higher risk of contracting TB and dying from it, smoking is also known to negatively influence the response to treatment.
Smoking can further increase the risk of relapse. Furthermore, studies have also shown that secondhand smoking increases the risk of contracting the disease, especially in children.
To allow for the coordination of a national program for both tuberculosis and tobacco control together one can have a look at the “End Tobacco to Eliminate TB: Communication Toolkit”, launched by public health organization Vital Strategies in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).
In an exclusive interaction with HealthWire Media, Dr. Manoj Goel, Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, shares some important insights about the Link between tuberculosis and tobacco consumption:
There are times when a person can have the infection and never develop any symptoms. In most people, the immune system can contain the TB bacteria so they do not replicate and cause any serious symptoms.
Sometimes the body is unable to contain the TB bacteria, this is common when the immune system is weakened due to illness and use of certain medications. When this happens, the bacteria replicates and causes symptoms.
Early warning signs of TB
One should immediately contact the doctor if they experience the following symptoms:
- A persistent cough that has lasted for at least three weeks
- Phlegm which has blood in it
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme weight loss
- A general feeling of fatigue
- Swelling in the neck
- Night sweats
- Chest pain
Diagnosis of TB
Even if a person with latent TB displays no symptoms, the infection can show up on tests. One should get a TB test done if they have:
- Spent time with a person who has or is at the risk of having TB
- Spent time in a country where there is a high risk of TB
- Worked in an environment which has the risk of TB
The examination will involve the doctor asking the patient about the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. They will further perform a medical examination which involves listening to the lungs and checking for swelling in the lymph nodes.
The two tests that can show is a TB bacterium is present or not are:
- TB skin test
- TB blood test
One can prevent getting TB by getting a diagnosis done at the right time and by wearing a mask. As stated earlier tobacco smoking and secondhand smoking increase the risk of developing TB and further make it harder to treat the disease. Therefore, it is best to quit smoking and avoid contact with smoke. Anyone who is at a high risk of developing Tb or has any symptoms should see a doctor at the earliest.