Next to the kidneys I think the lungs are my favorite organ. Sure the brain and heart do a lot of work and you’ll die without them but the lungs and kidneys control some of your longterm functions and have the most interesting feedback loops–especially the kidneys(NO they are not just pee machines, or they are but that says ALOT) but I am saving that post for a special time.
So I learned about lung function during A&P but we have been going over more of the disease aspects of the lungs during two classes this week. Perhaps the most important things you can do for the lungs are 1) DON’T SMOKE EVER- not even vacation cigarettes. 2) Exercise 3) Deep breathing- especially if you are coming out of anesthesia or are old- prevents pneumonia which is common in hospitals and kills lots of people. There’s a bunch of other stuff but that’s the highlights.
The main thing I would like to talk about here, with regard to Lungs is Consumption. Yeah -what people got before modern medicine right?!?! TB, Tuberculosis, The Turbc….um yeah…anyway.
Tuberculosis is one of those things we don’t think about too much. For certain jobs, like nursing, you get tested annually but WHY? since no one I know has it or has tested positive… and if they did test positive what does that mean? Well here are some stats for the disease that scientists thought would follow small pox into eradication:
Tuberculosis is the #1 killer of people with AIDS- used to be pneumonia but TB has taken the lead.
In the US, only 5-10% of the population tests positive on PPD tests (the test to see if you were exposed to TB -does not mean you have it)
In the REST OF THE WORLD 70-80% of populations will test positive on PPD tests.
So what happened? Basically with AIDS TB found a new outlet, took advantage and respread itself across the globe especially in over-populated and under-served countries. Since these countries are affected that means we are affected because….
What do people LOVE to do these days??? Travel! I like it- I am going to Costa Rica this winter and plan to go to Greece and Turkey next fall. So with all this traveling exposure rates are bound to climb in the US which probably means TB infections will rise in the US.
The thing with me is that as long as I am in nursing school or a nurse I will get tested for TB (and other things like HIV) annually. You won’t. If you do travel a lot–especially to Asia, Africa, or under developed (excuse the non-pc word choice) countries you might want to talk to your doctor about an annual PPD test.
What does the test mean? The PPD test means you were exposed to the TB bacteria not that you are infected. Should you test positive on the PPD test they can do a chest xray and see if you have any colonies. However, if you have AIDS you should just skip the TB test and go right to a chest xray- your immune system is compromised and you might not produce any antibodies giving you a false negative PPD.
Why is TB such a big deal? TB is a big deal because it’s a nasty bacteria that likes to wall itself off in your lungs- decreasing your lung tissue and making it incredibly resistant to antibiotics. Some strains are more difficult to treat than others and one in particular is super nasty and you might die. TB can be dormant and you might not have an active infection for years, which, I believe-ask your doctor too, you don’t need treatment for. I think you only treat active TB.
That’s the thing with this incredibly cool, future world of ours. We meet all sorts of people but that means we see all kinds of bugs.
On another note one of the reasons TB is bad is because of antibiotic resistance. We all need to be super diligent to prevent this–here are some steps:
-Make sure to take your FULL COURSE of antibiotics. You might let a couple nasty ones get away even though you are no longer having symptoms
– NEVER take antibiotics as a preventative or for viruses. My prof said that 90% of acute ear infections are caused by viruses so antibiotics won’t help but sometimes doctors prescribe them to worried parents to make them feel better. This is bad. Antibiotics DONOT affect viruses.
– Avoid antibiotics in meat and foods. I think the FDA finally realized this was bad so they made a law but who knows when that goes into effect, so if you can, avoid it on your own.
-Ask questions. I think on of the main failings of our health care system is that it does not invite questions. I know I get intimidated by my doctor and don’t ask enough questions even though I ask more than most. If you have any concerns do not hesitate to ask Why they are doing something or What they are doing- its your or your loved one’s body, its your right.
The white spots below is what the little lung colonies of TB look like (also called granulomas)