In the elderly people, tuberculosis (TB) is not easy to detect and diagnose because it does not manifest so clearly in these people, and doctors can easily be lead to suspect another disease.
If there are some symptoms present, doctors tend to classify them as related to other diseases more specific to old people.
The most frequent symptom found in TB is the cough that is present for a long time. At first, doctors think of pneumonia or flu, because they affect elders easily and have cough as a primarily symptom.
If old patients lose weight and appetite, this could be a sign of a gum disease, a diagnosis disease, or cancer, or even of bad eating habits. But it also could have been a sign of TB.
TB can affect spin, kidneys, lymph nodes and intestinal tract, not only the lungs, and so, a person infected with TB can develop fever, night sweats, kidney problems or bowel irregularities. Another TB symptom is coughing accompanied by blood spitting.
And easy and reliable test to see if you are infected with tuberculosis microbes is the intra-dermal reaction, a skin test. If positive, doctors will try an isolation of the germ by culture in the laboratory. In the older people, even though the microbes are generally found in a small amount, it makes doctors consider the test positive.
Another reliable test is the thoracic Rx, which show exactly if TB is present and where in the lungs is localized.
Even a total negative test could mask the presence of TB, which is the reason why in case of a suspicion of TB, the tests will be repeated after a while, when TB will be active.
If the elder acquires the germs earlier in life, the drugs that will be administered will be highly efficient, because those old germs had not met before with these new drugs and are not resistant to them.
Also, an association of drugs is beneficial in treating TB. Even though it is a difficult treatment it must be held for some months, otherwise the disease could spread, affecting other organs, and leading to death.
Also, TB is a contagious disease, and people who suffer from this illness must be hospitalized and treated with special drugs for a while, until they get better and the microbe will not be able to transmit to other people too.