Tuberculosis – A Long-lasting Disorder

Although there is the availability of effective treatment of tuberculosis, it still accounts for millions of deaths across the world. Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious and long-existing infectious disease which is responsible for a high proportion of deaths worldwide. It is considered to be one of the major public health threats that lead to morbidity and mortality. It is associated with the appearance of various symptoms in the body, and some of the commonly occurring symptoms include:

What is the pathogenesis of tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an old disease which is caused by the slow-growing bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis occurs when the bacteria that causes this disease enter the lungs and are usually walled off into the harmless capsules, also known as granules into the lungs. This leads to the occurrence of an infection and not a disease, but over time, this infection leads to the development of an active tuberculosis. 

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection which can affect any part of the body, but the lungs are commonly affected. The bacteria is exposed in the air from an already infected person in the form of coughing or sneezing. Whenever a healthy individual is exposed to these air droplets, it passes through various parts of the body such as the mouth, upper respiratory tract, bronchi, and later it finally reaches the alveoli of the lungs, resulting in the destruction of the greater proportion of tubercle bacilli. The remaining unaffected proportion are later released upon the death of macrophages and spread to any part of the body. A few weeks later, the immune system is triggered and allows the white blood cells to destroy the majority of tubercle bacilli, and this destruction leads to the formation of granuloma.

Are there any complications associated with tuberculosis?

Yes, tuberculosis is associated with the occurrence of certain complications which can worsen the condition. Some of the complications that are associated with tuberculosis are as follows:

1. Meningitis

Meningitis is a condition which is characterized by the inflammation of meninges, which is the covering of the brain and spinal cord and it is caused due to an infection from the bacteria or the virus. Tuberculosis is one of the common causes of meningitis and it is known as tuberculous meningitis. It is the most severe form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection which is associated with high morbidity and mortality.

At the initial stage, it is characterized by symptoms like low-grade fever, headache, dizziness, and personality change. As this disease progresses, it leads to the occurrence of symptoms like severe headache, altered mental status, stroke, and cranial neuropathies. The occurrence of these symptoms is due to basilar meningeal fibrosis and vascular inflammation.

2. Tuberculous arthritis

Tuberculous arthritis is another consequence of tuberculosis infection. Arthritis is a term which is used for inflammation of the joints. It is a chronic septic arthritis and has always taken into consideration for one of the causes of chronic arthritis. It has been observed that the number of cases of chronic arthritis is quite high in countries where there is a high incidence of tuberculosis.

When a person suffers from tuberculous arthritis, the common symptoms of tuberculosis such as fever and night sweats are subtle or absent. The classic features of tuberculous arthritis include stiffness, pain with or without movement, and gradual loss of function for some time.  The most frequently affected joints are peripheral joints like knees and hips and some other joints include shoulder, elbow, and carpal.

Also Read: How hypertension affects the human body?

3. Chronic kidney disease

Evidence suggests that there is a strong relationship between chronic kidney disease and patients having tuberculosis. Studies have observed that patients who suffer from tuberculosis are at high risk of suffering from chronic kidney disease. Kidneys are important for various vital functions in the body, primarily responsible for removing extra fluid and waste from the body. But many times, kidneys fail to function normally and leads to the development of kidney disease. When kidney disease is left untreated for a long time, it leads to the occurrence of chronic kidney disease. Immunodeficiency is the key feature of chronic kidney disease. An infection in the body makes the kidneys unable to function, leading to the development of chronic kidney disease.

4. Heart disease

Tuberculosis has long been known to have a significant impact on the heart. Multiple studies have been conducted to investigate the role of tuberculosis bacteria in the occurrence of heart disease and it was observed that people having tuberculosis are at high risk of developing atherosclerosis, one of the most common heart disorders and other heart problems as well.

It is believed that high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of heart disease. Therefore, one of the common explanations to state the correlation between tuberculosis and heart disease is that tuberculosis significantly affect the blood pressure of an individual. The blood pressure  of a patient having tuberculosis is often found to be high as compared to a person who do not have tuberculosis.

Is there any correlation between tuberculosis and vitamin D levels?

The role of vitamin D in the body has always been considered to be vital for maintaining the health of a person. The role of this vitamin in calcium regulation is known to almost everyone, but multiple studies have stated that along with this, vitamin D is also important in the mechanism of immunological regulation.

It has been noticed that the treatment of tuberculosis includes supplements of vitamin D and this is because the patients having tuberculosis are deficient of vitamin D. Vitamin D suppresses the growth of mycobacterium tuberculosis. Thus when the body lacks vitamin D, the growth of these bacteria increases, resulting in the occurrence of tuberculosis.

It can be said that having an adequate amount of vitamin D in the body is the preventive measure for tuberculosis. There are two sources of an intake of vitamin D – sunlight and food. Also, the lack of vitamin D in the body leads to defective macrophage functions.

In the survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in macrophages, the tryptophan aspartate that contains coat proteins plays an essential part. Vitamin D work by combining itself with retinoic acid and downregulates tryptophan aspartate containing coat proteins and also inhibits the entry of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and its survival in the macrophages.

Tags:  Tuberculosis symptoms, Tuberculosis treatment, Tuberculosis causes

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.