Are You at Risk of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease (NTM)?

Posted on August 29, 2019   |   
Author: The COPD Coach   |   

Are You at Risk of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease (NTM) - Speakers

Most people are not aware that common activities such as gardening, walking through a park or even taking a shower can expose them to damaging bacteria known as NTM. These naturally occurring bacteria exist in the environment, specifically in soil and the water supply. Individuals with healthy lungs and are able to fight off these bacteria, but for those with chronic lung conditions such as COPD, the bacteria can be devastating.

NTM is a chronic, progressive and often severe disease resulting in a loss of lung functions. The challenge of NTM is that the symptoms often mimic other diseases, leading to a delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis. Symptoms include a persistent cough, night sweats, low-grade fever, fatigue and chronic weight loss. Individuals with COPD are at increased risk for developing NTM lung disease.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you become more aware of NTM and also ask your healthcare professional about the disease. Many professionals are not aware of NTM, so it may be helpful for you to bring information with you. This valuable website provides a wealth of information about NTM, risk factors, testing for the disease, treatment options, support and much more.

In this informative video, you can hear from Debbie, a woman who lived with NTM for more than 15 years without being properly diagnosed. Doctors thought she had severe asthma or lung cancer until she found a pulmonologist familiar with NTM and was properly diagnosed. Effective treatment and lifestyle changes have greatly improved the quality of Debbie’s life.

For those who don’t have NTM but are in a high-risk group, there are steps you can take to reduce exposure. If you enjoy gardening, try wetting the soil before going into the garden and wearing a facemask. In the house, you can raise the heat level on your water heater, wear a mask when showering or even consider taking baths instead of showers.

As with COPD, knowledge is power when dealing with NTM. Be informed, know what to ask your doctor and find resources that will help you overcome any challenges you may be facing. The COPD Foundation’s Bronchiectasis and NTM Initiative is a helpful resource for anyone living with NTM. On that website, you can find the BronchandNTM360social community which is very similar to COPD360social that many patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals use to connect with others, seek advice and get support.


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