Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease whose origins trace back to at least 1500-700 B.C., when the first known description of spinal tuberculosis in Sanskrit has been found. Until the advent of antibiotics in the 20th century, the main method of "treatment" for those diagnosed with tuberculosis was to isolate them from people who were not infected. Considered by most lay people to be a disease of the lungs, tuberculosis may affect many parts of the body.
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Tuberculosis is usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, although infection from Mycobacterium microti, Mycobacterium africanum and Mycobacterium bovis may occur infrequently, according to the Merck Manual. TB spreads by respiratory droplet--from sneezes, coughs, and contact with sputum or forced use of air, such as in singing. The lungs are the most common site of infection, but left untreated, the disease can spread to other body tissues.
Once a person is exposed to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis organism, a primary infection develops, then the disease goes into a latency period. During these two phases, the tuberculosis is not communicable. The primary infection is not the same as an active disease. Active disease, if it occurs, will follow the latency period. The latency, or dormant period, may last months, years or a lifetime.
Bone tuberculosis is also referred to as skeletal tuberculosis. The bones are among the many sites where tuberculosis may affect the body. When the disease spreads outside the lungs it most often does so through the blood system. According to medical doctors Hugh G. Watts and Robert M. Lifeso, authors of "Tuberculosis of Bones and Joints," an article in the 1996 Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, tuberculosis has been found in every bone of the body. Skeletal tuberculosis in the United States occurs 50 per cent of the time in the spine, 12 per cent of the time in the pelvis, 10 per cent of the time in the hip and femur, 10 per cent of the time in the tibia and knee, and in decreasing percentages in the remainder of the bones, according to this article.
Tuberculosis of the spine is referred to as Pott's disease. The thoracic portion of the spine (shoulders to mid-back area) is the site most commonly infected in the spine, according to Family Practice Notebook. Symptoms of Pott's disease may include pain localised to the infected area with fever and weight loss, rigidity of the spine and muscle spasm, according to Watts and Lifeso.
Osteoarticular tuberculosis is a type of TB that affects the bone joints, presenting symptoms of gradually worsening arthritis. Unlike traditional arthritis, osteoarticular tuberculosis usually affects only one joint, which may aid the physician in diagnosing the condition. The presence of abscesses that drain to the skin may also be present.
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