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We often think of tuberculosis as a disease that predominantly impacts the lungs. But did you know TB can also impact the female genitalia? Caused by a bacteria called Microbacillus tuberculosis,
The exact prevalence of genital TB is difficult to gauge as most afflicted women tend to show no symptoms. And those who are diagnosed are mainly in the young reproductive age group. Genital TB is almost always secondary to TB elsewhere in the body—usually in the lungs and sometimes from other organs. Since the focus is mostly always on the lungs, that the organ heals. But the lesion may lie dormant in the genital tract for years, only to reactivate at a later time, especially due to any other illness, stress, or poor nutrition.
Usually, there are no significant symptoms of genital TB. Hence, the effect of tuberculosis on reproductive organs goes unnoticed till a woman wishes to plan a pregnancy.
The main and most important symptom of genital TB is the inability to conceive. Women may report weight loss, fatigue, and a tendency towards a persistent but mild fever in the evening. Other symptoms can be menstrual irregularities, scanty menses, and low-grade persistent lower abdominal pain.
Imaging diagnostic tools like ultrasound and hysterosalpingography can give important pointers for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. Moreover,
Women with active TB will be referred to an infectious disease specialist and started on treatment. TB is completely treatable with a good and strict medication course.
However, even when the treatment is completed and the germs are eradicated from the body, some of the infection remains. This presents in genital tuberculosis as blockage of fallopian tubes, decreased ovarian function, and formation of adhesions or bands within the womb, between the abdominal organs so much so that it may lead to infertility.
It’s very important to correctly diagnose and completely treat genital tuberculosis. Timely medical help can completely cure tuberculosis and ensure fertility potential is not hampered.