Tuberculosis 101: Protecting Yourself for a Healthier Tomorrow

For more than a decade, the tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate in Singapore has remained between 30 to 40 cases per 100,000 people.
By the team at Speedoc,
March 31, 2024
What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a contagious infection caused by bacteria. It mainly affects the lungs but can also impact other parts of the body. TB spreads when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, releasing tiny germs into the air. 

There are essentially two types of TB - latent infection, where the person has the bacteria but no symptoms, and active disease, which shows symptoms like coughing, weight loss, and fatigue. It's important to get diagnosed early, as treatment involves taking antibiotics for a specific duration.

What are the symptoms?

TB symptoms can vary, and not everyone infected with the bacteria will experience noticeable signs. When they do occur, it affects the lungs and other parts of the body which typically include:

  • Shortness of Breath

  • Persistent Cough

  • Night Sweats

  • Weight Loss

  • Chest Pain

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Chills

However, it is important to note that these symptoms may also be associated with various respiratory or infectious conditions, and they may not necessarily indicate TB. 

How can individuals test for TB?

For those who have been experiencing a persistent cough for more than three weeks or any other associated symptoms, it is advisable to promptly consult your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a chest X-ray and could refer you to a specialist for additional examinations.

Standard tests for TB include:

  • Chest X-ray to reveal any lung damage caused by TB

  • Tuberculin skin test (Mantoux test) to assess the likelihood of you being infected with TB

  • Sputum test for the smear and culture of TB germs to identify the presence of TB bacteria 

How can patients manage TB?

Managing TB often involves a combination of medical treatment, lifestyle adjustments, and adherence to prescribed medications. It is also important to practise good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, this helps to protect those around you too.

Individuals are also advised to ensure a balanced diet to support their immune system during recovery and to limit contact with others until they are no longer contagious. For those who stay in close proximity to their loved ones, their household contacts may need testing and, if necessary, preventive treatment as well.

Unsure what to do?

If your loved one seems to be experiencing persistent symptoms, especially a prolonged cough, you ought to advise them to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing TB effectively and preventing the spread of the disease to others. Learn how you can get a better understanding of your health today.

Download the app