KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF TUBERCULOSIS IN THE THROAT

Tuberculosis or TB is a contagious bacterial infection which primarily attacks the lungs or throat but can spread to other parts of the body such as brain and spine. This is caused by a type of bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis in the throat or lungs can prove fatal if not treated in time. In fact, in earlier days, tuberculosis was one of the most common causes of death worldwide.

Types of Tuberculosis

A person infected with tuberculosis might not necessarily fall sick because tuberculosis is also of two different forms explained below:

Latent Tuberculosis: In this form of TB, the bacteria are present in the body – usually the lungs or throat – but do not spread to other body parts, instead lie dormant. This implies that the person does not feel any symptoms and is not contagious. However, since the infection is living in the body, there are high chances it can become active triggered by cases with the weak immune system such as:

  • Babies and young children – with developing immune systems
  • People who have diabetes or kidney disease
  • HIV/ AIDS patient
  • Organ transplant patients
  • Cancer patients
  • People with auto-immune disorders
  • Malnourished or underweight people
  • Chain smokers
  • Substance users (alcohol and drugs)

Active Tuberculosis: In this form of TB, the germs affect the lungs and throat, multiply and increase to spread to other body parts and make a person sick.Most of active TB cases are results of latent TB.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis in Throat

Tuberculosis mainly attacks the lungs and throat. In the case of latent TB, there will no symptoms since the infection is dormant but it can be diagnosed through a blood test. On the other hand, active TB will have some of the below symptoms:

  • A dense cough lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Acute chest pain
  • Pain in breathing or coughing
  • Blood in cough
  • Constant fatigue and extreme tiredness
  • Night sweats
  • Severe chills
  • Consistent fever especially low-grade
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

A person infected with tuberculosis might display some or all of these symptoms depending on the severity of the infection. Also, if the infection has spread to any other organ in the body, the symptoms will differ and will depend on the concerned organ, such as if tuberculosis has spread to the spine, a person will experience severe backache and in case, the infection has affected the kidneys, the person might find blood in the urine. These symptoms may arise individually or in combination with the above general symptoms.

Despite the infection is very contagious, tuberculosis does not thrive on surfaces and hence, cannot spread through simple activities such as shaking hands or sharing food with an infected person. The virus will only spread to another being if he/she is in close contact with the infected person for a long period. In that respect, some people who become more prone to being infected with the virus are:

  • Family
  • Close friends
  • Co-workers
  • People who have travelled to TB infected areas such as Russia, Asia, Eastern Europe, Asia, etc.
  • People who live in a hospital or a nursing home.

Also, people with a weakened or compromised immune system are more prone to being infected with the virus.

Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in Throat

Like any other form of tuberculosis, TB in the throat can also be diagnosed by two tests that include:

Skin Test: Also known as Mantoux tuberculin skin test, this procedure involves injecting a specific fluid into the skin of the lower arm; post 2-3 days, this area is analysed for any swelling to assess the presence of TB bacteria.

Blood Test: These are specific blood tests called nterferon-gamma release assays or IGRAs,which determine the presence of TB by mixing TB protein with some blood.

If the tests result positive, the doctor will perform an X-Ray of chest and throat or a CT scan to assess for changes in the lungs and the presence of TB bacteria.

Treatment of Tuberculosis in Throat

Treatment of tuberculosis in the throat is similar to treatment of any other form of tuberculosis and depends on the type of TB – active or latent.

  • In the case of latent TB, the patient is given medications to kill the bacteria so that the tuberculosis bacteria do not become active.
  • In the case of active TB, the combination of medications is given to control the spread of bacteria. The course of medicines is long, approximately 6 to 12 months.

Preventing Tuberculosis in Throat

Tuberculosis is easily preventable in both cases – where a person has no infection or has a latent TB infection. Some easy steps to prevent TB in any form, including the throat, are:

  • Take vaccinations such as BCG vaccine to prevent the infection from entering the body.
  • For people who have latent TB, ensure to get attentive medical care and regular monitoring. Moreover, it is important to take all medications to kill the tuberculosis germs so that they do not develop into active TB.
  • For people with active TB, it is important to limit or restrict all contact with other people. Follow simple precautionary steps such as covering the mouth while yawning, sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc.
  • For people who are travelling to places that have a common presence of TB, it is important to get preventive vaccinations and avoid spending time in crowded places.

Tuberculosis of any form including the throat can be easily prevented and treated provided timely medical care is received. In cases that fail to receive effective and timely treatment, tuberculosis can be life-threatening.

WHY THERE IS COMMON SPECIALIST FOR EAR, NOSE AND THROAT?

The ear, nose and throat of a human body are very essential organs, which are all interconnected by a system of tubes and passages. Hence, a common specialist can treat all problems related to these three organs including ear, nose and throat. This medical specialist is referred to as an otolaryngologist, who is commonly called an ENT specialist.

An ENT specialist can treat various conditions and also perform surgery to cure diseases and problems affecting the ear, nose and throat. Some of the common problems treated by an otolaryngologist are:

  • Infections of the ear, nose and throat
  • Hearing loss
  • Trouble with balance
  • Tonsillitis
  • Dizziness
  • Asthma
  • Allergy
  • Deviated Septum
  • Hair loss
  • Nose bleeds
  • Nasal congestion
  • Smell problems
  • Cleft palate
  • Breathing problems
  • Swimmer’s ear
  • Nerve problems of the ear, nose and throat
  • Problems in swallowing or drinking
  • Vocal issues
  • Strep Throat
  • Sinusitis
  • Infections and tumours of the head and neck
  • Snoring issue
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

What is otolaryngology?

The branch of study involves diagnosing and treating problems of the below structures:

  • Ears: All infections, allergies, hearing disorders, etc.
  • Nose: Problems such as chronic sinusitis, nasal cavity issues, allergies, problems of smell, etc.
  • Throat: Diseases and issues related to the laryngeal and upper esophageal, as well as vocal issues, swallowing problems
  • Head and neck: Otolaryngology also involves treating problems of the face, head and neck including infections, bacterial infections, trauma, injury, deformities and tumour. However, for some specific problems, a multi-speciality approach may be required.

Some otolaryngologists undertake special studies to gain expertise in any of the following seven areas:

  • Allergic treatment through medication, immunotherapy, etc.
  • Surgery of the face, neck, ear for various reasons such as cosmetic, functional or reconstruction
  • Tumour removal
  • Throat management
  • Ear disorders and problems such as tumours, nerve issues affecting hearing and balance’
  • ENT specialist for children
  • Nose and sinus disorder management

What are the common procedures performed by Otolaryngologists?

An ENT specialist or an otolaryngologist can perform a wide variety of functions to treat problems related to the ear, nose, throat and related structures such as head and neck. These procedures vary in complexity and can range from microvascular reconstruction to reconstructing entire neck.

Some of the common procedures performed by Otolaryngologists are:

Blepharoplasty: This procedure involves repairing drooping eyelids by removing excess skin, muscle or fat tissue. This is done to improvise vision or could also be done for cosmetic purposes.

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery: This surgery is performed to cure infectious and inflammatory sinus problems. In this procedure, the otolaryngologist inserts a flexible instrument known as an endoscope into the nostril to fairly see the sinuses and guide other surgical instruments including lasers to remove the blockage.

Excision and Biopsy: An ENT specialist can take a piece of tissue of the concerned organ to check for abnormal growth, masses or tumour. This procedure is called a biopsy.

Facial Plastic Surgery: In some cases, an ENT specialist can also perform cosmetic or reconstructive surgery to correct congenital abnormalities, cleft palates, etc. These could also be done to remove scars, accident marks, and other reasons.

Myringotomy and pressure equalization (PE): This procedure can help patients who experience frequent ear infections or are experiencing hearing impairment due to formation of excessive fluid n the ear. The ENT specialist will place tubes through the eardrum to let the air pass into the deep ear. In a myringotomy, the surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum to release the pressure of it which is essentially caused due to fluid build-up.

Septoplasty: This procedure is conducted to correct a deviated septum or permit more nasal access to remove polyps. This involves separating the nasal passage from the cartilage to straighten the deviated cartilage as required.

Surgery for snoring or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): In this procedure, the ENT specialist will remove the surplus soft palate tissue to allow the airway to function properly. In other procedures, the surgeon can also inject the palate to make it stuff or insert rods to minimise vibration.

Thyroid Surgery: An ENT specialist will aim to remove some or all of the thyroid gland depending per complexity. This surgery is effective in cases of thyroid cancer, doubtful lumps, obstruction of the esophagus, etc.

Tonsillectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes the tonsils to cure the infection or treat breathing problems in case of problematic adenoids.

Tracheostomy: This procedure involves forming an opening via the neck to the windpipe by inserting a tube to allow the opening of an airway or remove lung secretions.

There are many other procedures that are performed by an ENT specialist or medically called an otolaryngologist. If people experiencing any problems with the ear, nose, throat or related structures – the common go-to specialist is an otolaryngologist.

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