World TB day: Can Tuberculosis settle in your vagina?
When tuberculosis travels inside our body and reaches to infect our intimate areas, it is called genital tuberculosis. This can affect both genders, men and women, even though it is more commonly tested in women. When the tuberculosis germs enter the genital areas of the body, this can hamper one’s fertility and ability to conceive. This can affect men’s fertility and their sperm count.
If such a condition is left untreated for a long time, it can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs. Timely treatments are effective and couples who get treated in time, have successful pregnancies.
Can tuberculosis settle in your vagina?
While tuberculosis (TB) is an infection that is caused by bacteria that can settle in any part of the body, this infection can travel along with the blood to other parts of the body. When the TB bacteria reaches your vagina, it causes genital tuberculosis. The bacteria can stay in our body without causing a noticeable infection for many years which is why couples have a high chance of undiagnosed genital TB. But when it gets activated, it mostly causes symptoms.
Can genital tuberculosis lead to infertility?
TB does not always lead to a situation of infertility, but if you are having trouble conceiving, this can come across as a reason that has led to infertility. Genital tuberculosis starts by infecting fallopian tubes in your vagina. When this happens, the passage gets constricted which is called tubal obstruction. This does not allow the egg released by the ovary to reach the womb and hence the egg does not get fertilised.
Sometimes, this can also lead to an ectopic pregnancy which is a condition that happens when the egg gets fertilised outside the womb of the woman. This then becomes a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. The TB infection can further spread to the ovaries, the cervix or vagina. If the TB infection is diagnosed at an early stage and is sought for the appropriate treatment, there are low chances of the infection affecting ones fertility or any damage to the uterus or fallopian tubes, which can also be healed with early medication. If the TB is left untreated for long, the infection can cause scars in the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus which cannot be reversed and may cause permanent fertility problems.
Scarring of the uterus leads to irregular periods or in some cases the periods may completely stop due to the damaged uterine lining.
How did I get genital TB?
If you have had pulmonary TB, genital TB can be a secondary infection as a result. The bacteria in this case can travel to the genital area and cause an infection.
The TB bacteria spreads just like a common cold through droplets when an infected person sneezes. Only the people who have an active infection of TB are infectious. Genital tuberculosis can also be passed on through sex as the bacteria are present in the body fluids and blood.
What are the symptoms of genital TB?
There are almost little or no symptoms. As the infection grows in women, one might start to notice irregular periods or no periods, pelvic pain, persistent vaginal discharge that can also be stained with blood, heavy or discoloured, bleeding after intercourse and difficulty conceiving.
How is genital TB treated and can I still get pregnant?
The treatment for genital TB is a course of antibiotics that lasts for about six to eight months in order to get rid of infections and offer relief from symptoms. If the infection is noticed in time, there won’t be any permanent damage to the reproductive organs. However, the treatment does not repair any damage or scarring and sometimes this means that if the damage to the reproductive organs is causing fertility problems, they might not get resolved. It is best to consult with your fertility expert. There are options like IVF or assisted conception methods that enable one to still have a baby.