Are You At Elevated Risk of NTM Disease?

An easy to get lung condition is nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease, or NTM lung disease for short. This infection is caused by bacteria that is located almost everywhere! It’s most commonly found in water and soil. Specifically turned soil or water that tends to be sitting for large periods of time. 

Almost everyone has to deal with NTM bacteria on a daily basis. The difference is that some people get an infection from it, while almost everyone else doesn’t. People who suffer from lung conditions may find themselves dealing with NTM infections. Many people are at a much higher risk of getting NTM lung disease than others. This article contains information about the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of NTM lung disease. 

Risk Factors of NTM Lung Disease

There are a variety of risk factors that come into play when contemplating NTM lung disease. Since everyone comes into contact with the bacteria so often, then why are some people getting infections while others are not? The exact reasons aren’t known, but there are risk factors which have been shown to increase the chance of infections. They include: 

  • Other Lung Diseases - People who suffer from other kinds of lung damage, COPD or other problems are more likely to get NTM lung disease. 
  • Age - Infections are more likely as people age. 
  • Weaker Immune Systems - People with a weaker immune system get NTM infections more than others. This typically happens from other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s disease. Many medications can also weaken the immune system and risk infection. 
  • Appearance - Slimmer caucasian women have a higher risk of developing NTM disease than others. It’s thought to be due to the shape of their spine and potential abnormalities in the breastbone. 
  • Acid Reflux - People who suffer from chronic acid reflux (GERD) or other issues with the esophagus can have an increased chance of NTM disease. 
  • Environmental Factors - People who are around locations with high levels of NTM bacteria consistently are more likely to get an NTM infection. People who work with soil or are consistently around water like indoor hot tubs have an increased risk of ntm infections. 

Symptoms of NTM Lung Disease

There are several symptoms that break down into two different groupings. The first type of symptoms are respiratory symptoms. These obviously affect the lungs in question. Many people suffer from a cough that refuses to go away over time. In addition, others cough up blood. Finally, some people feel a shortness of breath. 

There are also other symptoms that can occur when someone has an NTM lung infection. Some people feel fatigued consistently. A consistent low-grade fever is very possible, as is unexpected weight loss. Some people suffer from night sweats. 

Treating NTM Lung Disease

Treatment for NTM lung disease is a long process. If only a single antibiotic is used, then it’s likely to run into severe resistance from the infection. Typically, in order to beat NTM lung disease, it requires multiple antibiotics working in tandem. Two to three is pretty common. In addition, these are not short term treatments. Antibiotics are typically taken for an entire year to ensure that NTM lung disease is fully handled. 

In some severe cases, there’s a surgical option as well. After consulting with surgeons and specialists, some people may need to have the most damaged portion of their lung surgically removed. It’s a serious surgery and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.


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