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Understanding Tuberculosis

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Image is from CDC

Tuberculosis, TB, is an airborne bacterial infection. While other organs and tissues may be involved, it normally affects the lungs first.

What You Need To Know

While most people who have TB are not contagious, the disease is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, laughs, sings, or talks. If you are nearby and breath in those germs, there is a chance that you can become infected.

There is a difference between having active TB disease and being infected, known as latent TB. Latent TB is diagnosed when you have the TB germs in your body, but your immune system is strong enough to keep you from getting sick, and you are not contagious.

However, if you are diagnosed with active TB disease, you will have symptoms and you will be contagious. Therefore, it is critical to see a doctor right away.

Unfortunately, there are some forms of TB that are not eliminated with the usual medications prescribed. That means the TB germs in your body are resistant to them. These types of TB are classified as MDR TB and XDR TB.

MDR TB (multi-drug resistant) is resistant to the standard medication regime for active TB and is more serious. XDR TB is resistant to both standard and secondary drugs for treatment and any treatment rendered can be longer, expensive and more difficult. These forms of TB occur when medication is mismanaged or misused. For example:

  • If you do not complete the full course of treatment
  • If your doctor prescribes the wrong treatment, dose, or duration.
  • If medication is not available
  • If medication is of poor quality

It is more common in people who:

  • Do not take their medication regularly
  • Do not take medications for the full duration of treatment
  • Contract it a second time
  • Come from places where drug-resistant TB is more common
  • Have been around someone who has it

The good news is it is not easy to contract TB. You usually have to be close to someone infected for a long time. This is why it is often spread between family members, coworkers, and close friends.

What TB Does To Your Body

If you have a weakened immune system, you are at greater risk for developing TB. Some examples of conditions, treatments, and ages that cause weakened immunity are:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Leukemia
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Getting Chemotherapy
  • Elderly
  • Children under the age of 5

If you any of the above apply, the bacteria associated with TB is likely to settle in your lungs and start growing right away, because your immune system isn’t strong enough to fight it off. The disease will develop quickly, within days or weeks. If you are healthy and contract TB, it may take months, or even years to develop.

While TB attacks the lungs, it can also invade other parts of the body, such as:

  • Spine
  • Brain
  • Kidneys
  • Bones
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Skin

This is because the bacteria can move from the lungs through the blood and lymphatic systems. Symptoms of active disease include:

  • Cough
  • Weight Loss
  • Night Sweats
  • Fever
  • Chills

If other parts of the body are infected, symptoms specific to that area will occur. For example, if it has spread to your bones, you will have bone pain.

Despite what many people think, TB is not a disease of the past. About one third of the world’s population are infected. That is almost 2.5 billion people. Of those people 9.6 million have active TB. It is curable, however. Therefore it is important to recognize the symptoms, see a doctor right away, and follow the treatment ordered.

 

 

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Lupus Symptoms

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Image is from Lupus Foundation of America

Millions of people suffer with the autoimmune disease known as Lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease affects a person’s immune system. Rather than fighting to protect your body from viruses and bacteria, the immune system actually attacks various organs and tissues. Since, Lupus can affect different parts of the body, its symptoms vary greatly from person to person. The intensity of these symptoms also varies greatly, but most people experience flares, which will worsen and improve randomly.

Below is a look at some of the main symptoms of Lupus.

  • Anemia – Characterized by lower than normal levels of red blood cells in the body’s blood.
  • Chest Pain – Chest pain that occurs when taking a deep breathe. This can be caused by an inflammation of the pleura membrane that surrounds the lungs, also referred to as Pleurisy.
  • Dry or Swollen Eyes – Lupus can cause dry eyes or even swelling and pain in the area surrounding the eyes.
  • Fatigue – Lupus oftentimes causes extreme fatigue that is typically more severe during and immediately after a flare.
  • Fever – Many patients experience unexplainable fevers.
  • Hair Loss – Depending on which organs and tissues are affected, Lupus may cause hair loss.
  • Headaches – Many Lupus patient complain of severe headaches, which may be accompanied by confusion or even memory loss.
  • Joint Pain – Lupus can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints in the areas affected by the disease,
  • Photosensitivity – Some Lupus patients also experience a sensitivity to the sun and the light. In these cases, it is best to avoid direct sunlight when possible.
  • Rash – Many Lupus patients, but not all, experience a distinguishable rash on their face. This rash typically takes on a butterfly shape and spreads from the bridge of the nose outwards over both cheeks.
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon – This phenomenon causes a person’s fingers and/or toes to turn a whitish or bluish color when subjected to intense stress or extreme colds.
  • Shortness of Breath – In addition to chest pain, Lupus patients may experience periods of shortness of breath.
  • Skin Lesions – These types of lesions are most common among those whose Lupus affects their skin. Overexposure to direct sunlight should be avoided because this can worsen the lesions.
  • Swelling – Lupus patients commonly show signs of swelling in their feet and legs.
  • Unusual Blood Clotting – When Lupus affect the blood cells, a person may experience unusual blood clotting.
  • Ulcers – Some people with Lupus also experience frequent ulcers in the nose and/or mouth.

Lupus is sometime referred to as “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms are very similar to several other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and fibromyalgia. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss these concerns.

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Understanding Immunotherapy

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Image is from Cancer Research Catalyst – American Association for Cancer Research

Immunotherapy also known as biologic therapy is a type of treatment that induces or enhances the body’s immune system instead of using medicines. This process is usually done to treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to become more active in attacking cancer cells or by sustaining the body with man-made immune system proteins.

How Does the Immune System Work?

The immune system is the sum of all components that work together to maintain the normal functions of body organs. These components include but not limited to white blood cells, nutrients, and organ functions.

When the surface of skin is wounded, white blood cells work to heal the wound by eliminating foreign substances. When the wound is larger, it requires a lot of white blood cells to cover the wounded area. This will result in the appearance of lymph nodes near the area. This is where white blood cells build up.

In the process of eliminating foreign substances such as bacteria, germs, and cancer cells, body nutrients such as vitamin C may work to repair the damaged tissues and collagen.

Meanwhile, body organs work together to prevent disease-causing agents to stay inside the body. Kidney works to filter toxins, which are excreted through the urine. Digestive system separate important substances needed by the body from waste. The heart continues to pump blood to carry white blood cells and red blood cells needed to heal wounds.

These are some examples of how the immune system work. The immune system is not a single substance nor a single organ. It is an integration of several body systems that work together to protect the body from certain diseases.

The Immune System as Treatment for Cancer

There still no single medicine that can cure cancer. So far, an effective way to suppress the spread of cancer cells is through the immune system. The immune system serves as the police inside the body. It detects unwanted substances that may infect any area of the body.

However, cancer cells are not detected by the immune system as they appear to be like normal cells by of sending signals to the PD-1 CTLA-4 receptors. These signals confuse the immune system. This is why even a healthy body with strong immune system cannot prevent cancer.

Nonetheless, there is a way to make cancer cells detected by the immune system. The use of immunotherapy drugs such as inhibitors can disrupt the signals that are sent by cancer cells. This will let the cancer cells exposed to the immune system. Cytokines and cancer vaccines are examples of these inhibitors.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made immune system proteins. These proteins attach to cancer cells thereby flagging the cancer cells to be recognized by the immune system. On the other hand, monoclonal antibodies work to block the abnormal proteins in cancer cells, so they can also be used to prevent cancer cells from spreading.

These are examples of man-made antibodies:

  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo)
  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

Non-Specific Immunotherapies

Non-specific immunotherapies are used to boost the immune system to directly stop and kill cancer cells. Examples of these are interferons and interleukin’s.

Conclusion

The use of the immune system is still the most recommended method in the treatment of cancer. It only needs the help of inhibitors to let it work properly on the target. The problem with the immune system is that it is not intelligent enough to keep cancer cells from being hidden. This is why there is still a need for human intervention with the help of man-made antibodies.

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