Pulmonary Tuberculosis – Respiratory System Example

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"Pulmonary Tuberculosis" is a delightful example of a paper on the respiratory system. Tuberculosis (TB) is a global menace that continues to attract headlines. Pulmonary tuberculosis is a major type of TB. It mostly affects the lungs and proves to be fatal if left untreated. Every detail that concerns pulmonary tuberculosis needs to be understood so as to tackle the disease as swiftly and effectively as possible. It has been present for a very long time and it is important to understand its historical background as well as its causes, modes of transmission, effects on the lungs, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment alternatives.

Understanding its cause and modes of transmission helps in creating awareness. The comprehension of the signs and symptoms, as well as diagnosis, offers information to the indicators of the disease. Additionally, the information triggers the initiation of the appropriate treatment. Information on the treatment of the disease outlays the available options for tackling the disease directly. Through an in-depth analysis of various sources of information, this paper highlights all the essential details as mentioned earlier about the disease. Introduction Pulmonary tuberculosis refers to a potentially fatal but curable disease that targets the lungs of human beings.

Pulmonary tuberculosis can be treated if identified appropriately and when the patients follow every required instruction from their physicians. The bacterium that causes pulmonary tuberculosis is known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and has been present since the ancient times of about 20,000 years ago (Dyer, 2010). It has been known by various names over the years with the most popular being the “ white plague” . Relics from ancient India, Egypt and China show evidence of tuberculosis.

This offers proof that even the ancient civilization was faced with pulmonary tuberculosis as a significant menace. Tuberculosis, especially pulmonary tuberculosis was the main cause of deaths in the United States as the 20th century approached.   Understanding of the causes, transmission, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis is extremely important. Causes and Transmission Pulmonary tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacterium is present in the fluids of the patient and can be transmitted through inhalation of tiny droplets of infected fluids.   A person contacts primary pulmonary tuberculosis when he or she inhales the droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

Pulmonary tuberculosis causing bacteria can remain in the air for some hours thus present chances of other people contracting the disease even after the infected person leaves (Carey, 2007). It goes without saying that the risk of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis is high when one lives with people that are infected with tuberculosis, live in unclean or crowded areas or have poor nutrition. Other risk factors concern age, where the elderly are at a high risk of getting pulmonary tuberculosis.

Infants and persons with poor immune systems such as those infected with HIV or diabetes stand a high risk of getting pulmonary tuberculosis (Carey, 2007). Effect on the Lungs Once the Mycobacterium tuberculosis reaches the lungs, failure to take recommended antibiotics leaves the lungs vulnerable to damage. There develop cavities in the lungs that cause bleeding. It leaves the lungs open to attack by other bacteria which in turn increases the risk of developing serious complications. The worst-case scenario of damaged lungs leaves pockets of pus that affects breathing (Dyer, 2010). The bacterium also leads top development of a hole close to the airways and also creates blocked airways that cause difficulty in breathing. Signs and Symptoms A person infected with pulmonary tuberculosis starts top feel unwell and may start coughing that can be easily dismissed as normal.

However, as time progresses, the diseases manifest itself intensely by causing intense coughs that are accompanied by yellow or greening sputum. A prolonged coughing period, where there is the production of sputum and sometimes blood, points to a high likelihood of pulmonary tuberculosis ( Treatment of Tuberculosis: Guidelines, 2010).

Other symptoms include fever, chills and night sweats. Pulmonary tuberculosis, unlike other types of tuberculosis, does not cause high fevers but low-grade fevers.   The patients also develop reduced appetite and chest pains. Difficulty in breathing is another common symptom that is brought about by the escape of air from the patient’ s lungs into the chest cavity. The difficulty also emerges if there is an accumulation of fluid (pus) in the lungs due to damage (Carey, 2007). Patients infected with pulmonary tuberculosis are likely to experience fatigue and weight loss due to reduced appetite.

Pulmonary tuberculosis is likely to spread to other parts from the lungs and physicians ought to monitor the spread as well as differentiate the symptoms of lung TB from other types. Testing and Diagnosis Laboratory test results form the basis of a diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis. There is a standard test for tuberculosis known as the tuberculin skin test. It informs the physician about the presence of infections rather than informing whether the tuberculosis is active. The skin test is very common and the most cost-effective method of identification of infections.

Modern skin tests employ the use of purified protein derivative (PPD) which is injected into the skin (Dyer, 2010). The area where the shot was made becomes swollen if the person is infected with TB. The swelling has to exceed five millimetres to indicate the presence of TB in the tested person.   There is another option of using a chest X-Ray if the results from the skin test are doubtful. Physicians use the X-ray to identify any abnormality in the chest or lungs. A chest x-ray that shows several irregulars and white patterns indicate the presence of infections in the lungs (Carey, 2007).

The physicians mostly look at the upper parts of the chest as it is the first part to be affected. A confirmatory test prompts a doctor to take blood and check it for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the laboratory.   Since pulmonary tuberculosis has extensive signs and symptoms that have varied severity and affect different body parts, diagnosis cannot solely rely on the external symptoms. Intensive tests are mandatory to identify the disease accurately and consequently trigger appropriate treatment interventions. Treatment, Vaccines and Immunization The modern treatment approaches skids away from the supportive care approach that was the main approach some years ago (Dyer, 2010).

Supportive care used to isolate the patients and encourages the practice of offering good nutrition and rest to handle the disease. The method was not effective as it did not remedy the lungs but instead caused deterioration. Modern treatment option utilizes surgery when it is extremely needed as well as drug therapy. Drug therapy is the most common. A correct combination of drugs as well as following of treatment procedure can lead to the elimination of pulmonary tuberculosis ( Treatment of Tuberculosis: Guidelines, 2010).   The drug therapy follows the concepts of lowering the causative bacteria as much as possible, tackling resistance to treatment drugs and ensuring that the treatment is long enough or sufficient to prevent the relapse of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Reducing the number of bacilli ensures that transmission is limited or eliminated. This is why a patient under medication for more than two weeks cannot transmit the disease to others.

This fact also makes hospitalization of a patient infected with pulmonary tuberculosis unnecessary. The common drugs used in contemporary treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis are rifampin, pyrazinamide, ethambutol, streptomycin and isoniazid (Treatment of Tuberculosis: Guidelines, 2010). Medication should continue strictly for a period of not less than six months for the case of isoniazid, rifampin. Currently, there are no vaccinations of vaccines to tackle the spread of pulmonary tuberculosis. Pulmonary Tuberculosis Statistics from around the world Only HIV /AIDS kills more people in the world that Tuberculosis. Pulmonary tuberculosis is the most common form of TB and contributes to the largest percentage of these deaths.

Data from the World Health Organization specifies that 9 million people from around the world were infected in 2013 and 1.5 million of those succumbed to the disease (World Health Organization, 2015). Middle or low-income countries experience the highest number of deaths from Tuberculosis. This amounts to over 95% of total global deaths from the disease. The data also shows that tuberculosis; especially pulmonary tuberculosis is the leading cause of death for persons who are HIV positive. According to WHO, there has been global development in tackling the Tuberculosis menace.

From 1990 to 2013, the world has experienced a 45% drop in the number of TB deaths. Similarly, 37 million lives were saved by the diagnosis and treatment of TB between 2000 and 2013 (World Health Organization, 2015). The world continues to experience a decline in casualties of pulmonary tuberculosis. This implies that the achievement of the Millennium development goal of eradication of tuberculosis is underway.


Carey, E. (2007). Pulmonary Tuberculosis: Types, Symptoms & Treatments. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://www.healthline.com/health/pulmonary-tuberculosis#Types2

Dyer, C. (2010). Tuberculosis. Santa Barbara: Greenwood.

The Treatment of Tuberculosis: Guidelines. (2010). Geneva: World Health Organization.

World Health Organization. (2015, February). WHO | Tuberculosis. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/en/

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