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All about tuberculosis tuberculosis transmission causes of tuberculosis risk factors for tuberculosis symptoms of tuberculosis diagnosis of tuberculosis treatment for tuberculosis prevention of tuberculosis

What're the risk factors for tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is more common in elderly persons. Older adults are at greater risk of TB because normal aging or illness may weaken their immune systems. They're also more likely to live in nursing homes, where mini-epidemics of TB can occur. More than one-fourth of the nearly 23,000 cases of TB reported in the United States in 1995 developed in people above age 65. Many elderly patients developed the infection some years ago when the disease was more widespread.

There are additional reasons for the vulnerability of older people: those living in nursing homes and similar facilities are in close contact with others who may be infected. The aging process itself may weaken the body's immune system, which is then less able to ward off the tubercle bacillus. Finally, bacteria that have lain dormant for some time in elderly persons may be reactivated and cause illness.

Tuberculosis also is more common in blacks, who are more likely to live under conditions that promote infection. As the end of the century approaches, two-thirds of all cases of tuberculosis in the United States affect African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and persons from the Pacific Islands. Another one-fourth of cases affect persons born outside the United States. As of 1992, the risk of TB was still increasing in all these groups.

People who live or work in prisons, immigration centers or nursing homes are all at risk of tuberculosis. The high risk of TB in AIDS patients extends to those infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who have not yet developed clinical signs of AIDS. Alcoholics and intravenous drug abusers are also at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis. Until the economic and social factors that influence the spread of tubercular infection are remedied, there is no real possibility of completely eliminating the disease.

The risk of tuberculosis increases when the immune system is unhealthy. A number of factors can weaken the immune system. Having a disease that suppresses immunity, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or the lung disease silicosis, and receiving treatment with corticosteroids or chemotherapy drugs can damage your body's ability to protect itself. An increased risk of reactivated tuberculosis also has been associated with use of the arthritis drugs infliximab (Remicade) and etanercept (Enbrel).

More information on tuberculosis

What is tuberculosis? - Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious, wasting disease characterized by the coughing up of mucus and sputum, fever, weight loss, and chest pain.
How is tuberculosis transmitted? - Tuberculosis is spread through air droplets which are expelled when persons with infectious TB disease cough, sneeze, speak, or sing.
What causes tuberculosis? - Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Transmission occurs only from persons with active TB disease.
What're the risk factors for tuberculosis? - Tuberculosis is more common in elderly persons. The risk of tuberculosis increases when the immune system is unhealthy.
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis? - Symptoms of tuberculosis include cough, sputum, bleeding from the lungs, fever, night sweats, loss of weight, and weakness.
How is tuberculosis diagnosed? - Diagnosis of tuberculosis includes a medical history, a physical examination, a tuberculin skin test, a chest X-ray, and microbiologic smears and cultures.
What's the treatment for tuberculosis? - Directly observed treatment is effective in eliminating the problem of noncompliance. Surgical treatment of tuberculosis may be used if medications are ineffective.
How to prevent tuberculosis? - Preventive measures for tuberculosis include strict standards for ventilation, air filtration, and isolation methods. Preventive antibiotic treatment may have to be given.
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