Tuesday, 11 November 2014

TBC: Educate Yourself to a Healthy Future

Quite recently, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In Germany, among the Indonesian students, there was an outbreak of this virus going on, which managed to cost some students their lives - or a very huge medical bill. It is dangerous and everyone should be on high alert. However, the information given throughout the students have been quite misleading, leaving them to think they're healthy or not affected by this virus when, in truth, it's probably developing inside of their bodies. To prevent that, I am here to tell you some of the information I have acquired through talking to doctors for the past couple months and going through the disease myself. Please notify that I have no medical degree and this is a very serious matter.

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by air-borne mycobacteria, which most commonly attack lungs. The symptoms usually consist of profuse coughing, fever that comes and goes (especially at night), cold sweat, short breaths and - worst case scenario - coughing blood. The disease comes into view through an X-ray, where the lungs will look blotchy from the virus. When the virus takes over, your lung capacity will decrease.

However, contrary to popular belief, tuberculosis doesn't only attack the lungs. It attacks the colon, the lymph nodes, the spine and even the sexual organs. Obviously, when attacking different organs, the disease shows different symptoms. For instance, in the colon, the symptoms could be irregular bowel movements; in the lymph nodes, swellings on the neck - which could lead to inflammation; in the spine, the inability to sit up or constant sore muscles; and in the sexual organs, excessive peeing. Sometimes the excessive coughing fit, with which TBC is mostly associated, doesn't even happen. But, little do you know, the virus might be working its way throughout your system.

How to prevent it?

Like any other diseases, the best way to keep it at bay is by keeping optimal health. This can be done by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough and healthy sleep and consume plenty of water. A balanced diet consists of the five healthy food: carbs, meat, veggie, fruits and milk - or the nutrition, such as protein, fat, vitamin, mineral and carbohydrates. If you can't give up junk/fast food, at least reduce their portions in your life. With that, exercising is necessary, three times a week is the best schedule. Enough sleep isn't enough to keep your body fit, it also has to be healthy. Start sleeping by 10 PM and wake up in around 7 hours. Even if you do get 7-hour sleep, starting from 1 AM, it wouldn't be healthy. Lastly, you can never drink too much water.

Even when your condition is primal, please never hesitate to see the doctor upon contact with a TBC patient. Since it is air-borne, the easiest way it will get into your system will be through the cough - and TBC patients cough a lot! The quicker you go see the doctor, the less chance there will be of the virus developing in your body. Better safe than sorry!

My left lung lost 50% of its capacity due to some fluid from the infections caused by TBC

How to treat it?

Go to the doctor! Well, the only way you can find out is through an X-ray - or blood test - anyway so you'd need to consult a doctor. TBC treatment usually lasts for at least 6 months. Depending on the stage and complications, it could take up to a year. It is highly detailed and intricate. The medications are to be drunk in a routine - that means, everyday according to dosage - and without stop for half a year. If you forget to drink at a designated time, you will have to start your treatment all over again - that means 6 more months. The doctor will usually tell you that you should come for a check up every two weeks or every month to see if the medications are working. However, pills alone won't cure you off the disease. You will need to keep optimal health, as mentioned above.

TBC virus is actually pretty weak to sunlight. It is doctor-recommended - in fact, it's part of the treatment - to get as much sun light as possible in the morning. It is when the sun is warm enough to affect the virus but not scorching as to cause skin cancer. So sunbathe every morning while exercising is like shooting two birds with one stone! Do not even attempt to use sun beds, as they are not healthy and might actually cause more diseases. Plus, the sun is free.

How to keep it from spreading?

TBC patients tend to cough a lot. Coughing lets out the phlegm which carries the virus. Even if it's invisible to the naked eye, it is always safer to carry around medical masks - even at home. Sharing food and drinks is controversial. Although my doctor says it is totally fine, as a precaution, don't share your food and beverages with anyone until at least the first stage of the treatment is over. Sleeping with someone can also be dangerous - although I believe it's mostly from the subconscious sneezing and coughing that might happen during sleep - so it is definitely safer to have a separate room from a TBC patient. And, not that you'd want to, but don't touch their phlegm.

The day the doctors sucked the fluid out of my lungs
Maybe I've told you parts of the story before but never the whole picture. So here goes. Around 4-5 months ago, I discovered weird bumps on my shoulder blade. It felt like there were pearls underneath my skin. I managed to ignore it for maybe a month before another bump arose below my right ear. It started out small but turned big real fast, until I was finally diagnosed with TBC 2 months ago. I've been undergoing treatment since then and it has been working well for the first month. Then it got inflamed and I had to go into surgery to remove the cheese-like puss underneath. Now, I am still in recovery and doing the treatment everyday. I have to say I did not go to the doctor for two reasons, the probability of getting held back in Germany for treatment and my lack of knowledge about the disease. Due to the lack of coughing - or blood coughing, for that matter -, I let it go untreated for far too long. As a result, I had to go through surgery - which isn't fun, I must tell you - and stick my parents a bigger medical bill than it could probably have been.

In Germany, there was a case where a student died from having TBC and either couldn't or wouldn't get treatment. There was also another case where a student almost died from having a sloppy diet and undiagnosed TBC, where luckily one of his neighbours called the ambulance and he was rushed to the hospital to get treatment. However, by then, it was already bad enough that he had to get surgery. In the end, he was thankfully cured though not without an enormous medical bill - excluding the parts covered by insurance - which will hunt him forever. So, people, please do not be ignorant of your own wellbeing! Stay healthy and safe!

Edit: There are some errors in this article which were brought to my attention. My revisions are as follows:
  • TBC isn't caused by a virus, but rather by bacteria - Mycobacterium tuberculosis, to be exact.
  • The best way to diagnose a TBC patient is by running tests on their phlegm. Blood tests are not recommended and X-ray has low sensitivity.
  • TBC that attacks the lungs is very contagious, whereas when any other parts of the body is attacked, it is less so (probably from the lack of coughing involved).
  • When a person gets infected by the TBC bacteria, they are not always sick right away. It depends on their antibody.
  • The sun kills the TBC bacteria directly. It is important for TB patients to have a room which gets enough sun light so that the bacteria in the room will get killed instantly. However, sunbathing has yet to prove useful for TBC patient. Some researches connect it with the forming of vitamin D to kill the bacteria in the body but it is yet to be proven. It is, however, no harm to try.
  • During treatment, at the very earliest on the second month the patient has to get their phlegm tested in order to determine the next course of action. This is when it is decided whether the treatment would go on for 6 months or more.
  • TBC is not a shameful disease. It is something that could happen to anyone and at anytime. It could happen years after contact with the bacteria and it could happen right away. The best course of action is always to get treatment as soon as possible.

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