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Chest Diseases

What is Tuberculosis (T.B.)?
Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by a bacteria known as Myciobacterium Tuberculosis. It most commonly affects the lungs, but it may affect other parts of the body like the brain, kidney, skin, intestines, eyes, bones and joints. It is characterised by loss of appetite, cough with expectoration (sputum), loss of weight and fever, most often in the evenings. Though in the younger age group there may be blood in the sputum, it is uncommon in the elderly.
Is T.B. common in the elderly?
Yes, it is common in the elderly, it may occur as a primary infection or as a reactivation of an older healed lesion. This reactivation is most often due to poor diet and living conditions of many old people in India.
How can we know that a person has T.B.?
Loss of weight, malaise, tiredness and other symptoms of T.B. are often mistaken by the elderly and their family as part of ageing, but these should not be ignored. 
A doctor can recognise the clinical symptoms and will advise a thorough investigation including X-ray chest, sputum examination and blood tests.
Can T.B. be treated?
Yes, tuberculosis can be treated, but the patients should take the drug regularly as prescribed by the doctor. They can be very well treated at home as long as there are no complications. The elderly are highly susceptible to the side effects of the drugs used. There could be either liver involvement, tingling and numbness of the limbs, drug fever or involvement of the eyes.
What are the precautions to be taken by an elderly person suffering from T.B.?
Since T.B. is contagious and spread by air, when a person coughs, one should take care to use a handkerchief to cover one's mouth while coughing. Care should also be taken when young children are nearby.
For Asthma - See the page on Asthma
What are the other problems of the Chest that the elderly commonly suffer from?
Pneumonia and lung cancer are other problems which the elderly may suffer from. While the first is characterised by fever with chills, cough and vomiting, with rust coloured sputum, the second is associated with loss of weight, tiredness, anaemia, cough and chest pain.
Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, bed-rest, proper diet and sometimes with oxygen. The management of lung cancer is by surgery, radiation therapy and drugs. The details of this treatment are beyond the scope of this web-site. But it should be said that if detected early, Lung Cancer can be treated.
The fact that smoking increases the incidence of lung cancer cannot be over emphasised.
You could see this web-site on Lung cancer





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A nutritious diet, fresh air and exercise can go a long way in avoiding Tuberculosis

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Say NO to Smoking You are much better off without tobacco

Learn More about Asthma

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