What is Genital Tuberculosis? | Causes & Symptoms
- Published on September 06, 2022
What is Genital Tuberculosis?
Genital tuberculosis is a rare form of tuberculosis that affects the genital organs. It can affect both men and women and may cause pain, swelling, and ulcers in the genital area. It is also possible to develop a discharge from the vagina or penis.
Genital TB can spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or sexual intercourse. It usually occurs in people who have weakened immune systems, such as those who are HIV positive.
The bacteria can spread from the genitals or anus to the mouth, fingers or other body parts during sexual intercourse. Or, someone who has genital TB may pass it on to others through contact with their mucous membranes — for example, by having oral sex with a partner who has the condition.
Male genital TB symptoms usually present as a slowly developing lesion on the penis or scrotum, which may become ulcerated and painful if left untreated.
In rare instances, genital TB can spread to other body parts such as the liver or lungs; this may result in life-threatening illnesses.
Symptoms of genital tuberculosis
Genital tuberculosis symptoms can vary depending on your infection type and location.
- You may have a discharge from your penis, vagina, or anus if you have a bacterial infection. This discharge may be clear or bloody and may smell bad.
- You might also feel pain when urinating or during sexual intercourse. Genital tuberculosis can cause swelling and redness of the skin around your genitals and pain in that area.
- If there are large numbers of germs in your bloodstream (bacteremia), you might experience fever and chills, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue and muscle aches.
- You might get a genital ulcer, a firm, indurated lesion with irregular borders and an erythematous base. The ulcer may be single or multiple, ranging from 0.5 cm to several centimetres in diameter. Ulcers are usually painless unless they become infected with bacteria or fungi. They tend to heal slowly over several weeks without treatment but may take months to heal if left untreated entirely.
- You might have a low-grade fever, with a temperature between 37°C-38°C (99°F-100°F) lasting more than 24 hours with no other identifiable cause such as infection or inflammation. This often occurs when multiple ulcers are present.
Causes of genital tuberculosis
The bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes genital TB.
The bacteria can infect the urogenital tract (the urinary tract and reproductive organs) through direct contact with an infected person or by inhaling infectious droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes.
The bacteria may also spread to your lungs if you have a weakened immune system due to another illness, such as HIV/AIDS. If left untreated, this infection can lead to a lung disease that may become active TB in some people.
Genital TB may be caused by one of two forms of TB:
- Extrapulmonary TB — Extrapulmonary TB refers to TB that occurs outside the lungs but in another organ system, such as the kidney or lymph nodes. Extrapulmonary TB can affect any organ system in the body, including the genitourinary system.
- Miliary TB — Miliary TB refers to hard nodules that form within an organ or tissue due to infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria (MTB). Miliary TB may also occur in other body areas, such as skeletal muscle and lymph nodes.
Genital organs are prone to get infected with TB if they are already infected with another sexually transmitted disease like syphilis or gonorrhoea.
In addition, people with weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS or taking medications such as steroids can also be susceptible to TB infections in the genital tract.
Treatment of genital tuberculosis
Treatment for genital tuberculosis can be challenging due to the severity of the symptoms and difficulty in diagnosing the disease early on. This condition must not be confused with other types of infections or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In most cases, genital TB treatment involves a combination of antibiotics and surgical removal of infected tissue. Surgery may be necessary to prevent the further spread of infection into other parts of your body, such as your bladder or kidneys.
Genital tuberculosis treatment involves taking four to six months of medication. The drugs used may include:
- Isoniazid (INH) or rifampin (RIF) for two months, followed by INH for another two months. RIF may cause side effects like nausea and vomiting, but it’s safe to use during pregnancy.
- Pyrazinamide (PZA) for up to one month, followed by ethambutol (EMB) for up to one month. EMB can cause liver damage in some people if they take it with alcohol or certain medications, so be sure to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding before starting treatment with this drug.
The drugs are taken for two weeks, followed by two weeks without treatment. This cycle is repeated until the course is complete.
People diagnosed with genital tuberculosis should be advised to stop having sex until they’re no longer contagious and have finished treatment. They should also avoid having sex while they have any symptoms or signs of an STD since it could spread to others while they are ill.
Genital TB is a highly contagious condition, but it can be successfully treated with antibiotics administered by a healthcare provider.
It is recommended that Individuals believed to have genital TB symptoms be tested for the disease. If you have a confirmed diagnosis, practising safe sex and following your treatment plan will help you avoid infecting others.
If you suspect you have developed genital TB symptoms, you should consult a doctor at the earliest. Visit the nearest Birla Fertility & IVF Centre or book an appointment with Dr Prachi Benara, who will set you up for examination and tests.
1. What are the symptoms of genital tuberculosis?
The symptoms of genital tuberculosis include:
– painless lumps around the genitals (swollen lymph nodes)
– discharge from the urethra (the tube through which urine passes out of your body)
– burning during urination (dysuria)
– abnormal discharge from the vagina (vaginal discharge)
– Pain or discomfort during intercourse or urination due to ulcers on the vaginal walls
2. Can genital tuberculosis be cured?
Yes, genital tuberculosis can be cured with treatment. However, there are different types of treatment depending on where you live and whether or not you have a drug-resistant strain of TB.
3. Where does genital tuberculosis occur?
Genital tuberculosis is a rare form of TB that affects the skin and mucous membranes of the penis, vagina, vulva and rectum.
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Dr Prachi Benara
Dr Prachi Benara is a skilled infertility specialist with more than a decade of experience. Trained from some of the most premier institutes in the field in India which include Maulana Azad Medical College, BJ Medical College (Ahmedabad), PG Diploma in Reproductive and Sexual Health. She further trained in the United Kingdom to pursue her interest in Reproductive medicine and IVF. Her focus areas include advanced laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery, IVF, IUI, Frozen embryo transfer and correction of uterine anomalies including uterine septum to improve chances of pregnancy.
Over 11 years of experience
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