Female genital tuberculosis needs timely intervention: Experts

Tuberculosis can also affect a woman's reproductive health, however, timely intervention can help women to conceive, say health experts.

New Delhi: Tuberculosis (TB), commonly known to impact the lungs, can also affect a woman’s reproductive health. However, timely intervention can improve treatment outcomes and help women to conceive, health experts said on Wednesday.

Female Genital Tuberculosis (FGTB) is commonly seen in women and requires prompt medical attention. It is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (rarely Mycobacterium bovis and/or atypical mycobacteria) being usually secondary to TB of the lungs or other organs.

“Female Genital Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection of the female reproductive system that is known to cause infertility in women. This type of TB can take a toll on the fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina,” said Dr Surabhi Siddhartha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Mumbai.

In FGTB, fallopian tubes are affected in 90 per cent women, whereas uterine endometrium is affected in 70 per cent and ovaries in about 25 per cent women.

It causes menstrual dysfunction and infertility through the damage of genital organs.

Women suffering from female genital TB generally develop no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages. Often, infertility is the only presenting symptom.

“If the fallopian tube is infected the egg which gets fertilised will fail to pass via the tube and reach its destination which is the uterus. Hence, the woman will not be able to conceive,” Siddhartha said.

TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, which afflicts more than 10 million people each year. India contributes to over 30 per cent of the global TB burden.

In 2021, India had estimated 30 lakh new TB cases. About 38 per cent of TB deaths globally took place in India.

“Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious airborne disease leading to high morbidity and mortality rates not only in India but globally too. TB can have severe consequences for women, especially during their reproductive years and during pregnancy. TB most commonly affects the lungs, but it may affect multiple organ systems in the body and it may lead to infection in the fallopian tubes as well. It can also have a lasting impact on the endometrium, leading to infertility among females,” said Dr Sulbha Arora, Clinical Director, Nova IVF Fertility, Mumbai.

The diagnosis includes doing a laparohysteroscopy and dye test. Women known to have genital TB are treated with ATT (anti-tubercular treatment). ATT is the first line of treatment for women who are confirmed to have genital TB.

According to the doctors, one of the ways to keep genital TB at bay, is to treat pulmonary TB effectively without fail. Doing so can stop it from spreading to the reproductive system. Also, practising safe sex methods, and getting immunised as per the doctor’s advice, they suggested.

“Moreover, women with genital TB can conceive through assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like IVF with proper medication. So, speak to a fertility consultant and clear all your doubts regarding pregnancy,” Arora said.


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