What’s the Difference Between Pneumonia and Tuberculosis?

Health and Wellness

Both these respiratory illnesses have plagues humanity for hundreds of years, but even with the introduction of better treatment options and the greater understanding of respiratory infections, a lot of people still do not understand pneumonia and tuberculosis.

While there are similarities in the symptoms, pneumonia is a different illness from tuberculosis.

Pneumonia describes the inflammation of the lungs, which usually affects either one lobe of a lung (lobar pneumonia) or the areas near the bronchi (bronchial pneumonia). The illness has various causes, but most of them are caused fungal, bacterial, mycoplasma, and viral infection. Some of the species involved in the infection are Legionella, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Escherechia, and Chlamydia.

Individuals who are infected usually exhibit the following symptoms: fever, sweating, headache, and sometimes myalgia. Although it is possible to get a vaccination against one type of microorganism, pneumonia isn’t contagious and there aren’t a lot of risk factor which can increase the likelihood of having pneumonia. Unlike tuberculosis, however, pneumonia develops and progresses fast, making it possible for the person to experience worsening symptoms within just a day. A common cold might suddenly become an emergency situation because the person will experience breathlessness.

Pneumonia is treated with cephalosporin or penicillin, but the effectiveness will also depend on the person’s immune system and if there are other existing illnesses that compromise immunity. In most healthy patients, improvements can be seen within 4 to 8 days. It is also not uncommon for patients to be diagnosed with pneumonia and yet do not respond to antibiotic treatment. In this case, the patient might be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis was considered one of the deadliest diseases, and although healthcare and diagnosis has improved over the past one hundred years, it still claims millions of lives annually. Unlike pneumonia, tuberculosis affects not just the lungs but other parts of the body such as the genito-urinary system and the skeletal system. The lung infection can also lead to pneumonia, which is primarily caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is highly contagious, that is why patients with this illness are required to stay isolated from family members to avoid transmission. But even if it is an airborne infection, some people can reduce the risk of getting tuberculosis by maintaining a healthy immune system. However, tuberculosis develops very slowly unlike pneumonia. Sometimes it takes several hours and days of exposure to someone with tuberculosis before the person shows symptoms such as chronic coughing, weakness, and haemoptysis. Some symptoms are also similar to those of pneumonia, but a brownish or blood-specked sputum is the best indicator to distinguish he two. There are also cases of inactive tuberculosis in which the person does not show any physical symptom, but there are traces of the infection in the skin test, X-ray, and sputum test.

Tuberculosis takes longer to treat than pneumonia, with the mild symptoms showing improvement only after 15 days or so. The patient might have to take time off from work for half a year to fully recover.

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