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- Patient Comments: Tuberculosis (TB) - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Tuberculosis (TB) - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Tuberculosis (TB) - Cause
- Patient Comments: Tuberculosis - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Tuberculosis - Experience
- Tuberculosis (TB) facts
- What is tuberculosis?
- Are there different types of tuberculosis (TB)?
- What causes tuberculosis?
- What are risk factors for tuberculosis?
- What are tuberculosis symptoms and signs?
- Is TB contagious, and how long is the incubation period and contagious period?
- How do physicians diagnose tuberculosis?
- What is the treatment for tuberculosis?
- What types of doctors treat TB?
- What are complications of tuberculosis?
- What is the prognosis of tuberculosis?
- How can people prevent tuberculosis?
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a multisystemic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a rod-shaped bacterium. TB is the most common cause of infectious disease-related mortality worldwide (about 1.1 million to 1.7 million people die from it each year worldwide). TB symptoms can span such a wide range that TB is termed the "great imitator" by many who study infectious diseases because TB symptoms can mimic many different diseases. Additional terms are used to describe TB. The terms include consumption, Pott's disease, active, latent, pulmonary, cutaneous, and others (see the following section), and they appear in both medical and nonmedical publications. In most instances, the different terms refer to a specific type of TB with some unique symptoms or findings. The most common site (about 85%) for TB to develop is in the pulmonary tract. Humans are the only known hosts for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (although animals can get infected).
TB has likely been infecting humans for many centuries; evidence of TB infections has been found in cadavers that date back to about 8000 BC, so the disease has a long history of infecting humans. The Greeks termed it as a wasting away disease (phthisis). For many European countries, TB caused death in about 25% of adults and was the leading cause of death in the U.S. until the early 1900s. Robert Koch discovered TB's cause, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in 1882. With increased understanding of TB, public-health initiatives, treatment methods like isolation (quarantine), and the development of drugs to treat TB, the incidence of the disease, especially in developed countries, has been markedly reduced. However, the CDC estimates one-third of the world's population is infected with TB with about 1.5 million deaths per year.
There is a vast amount of detailed information available in the medical literature on all aspects of this potentially debilitating and lethal disease. The goal of this article is to introduce the reader to TB and help them to obtain a general knowledge about TB's cause, transmission, diagnostic tests, treatments, and prevention methods.