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Tuberculosis (TB) - Exams and Tests

Diagnosing active TB in the lungs

Doctors diagnose active tuberculosis (TB) in the lungs (pulmonary TB) by using a medical history and physical exam, and by checking your symptoms (such as an ongoing cough, fatigue, fever, or night sweats). Doctors will also look at the results of a:

Diagnosing latent TB in the lungs

  • A tuberculin skin testtuberculin skin test will show if you have ever had a TB infection. See a picture of a tuberculin skin test camera.gif.
  • Rapid blood tests help detect latent TB.3 They can help diagnose TB when results from a tuberculin skin test are uncertain. These tests also can tell if a person who has had a BCG vaccination has a TB infection. A rapid test requires only one visit to the doctor or clinic, instead of two visits as required for the tuberculin skin test. Rapid blood tests are also called interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs).

Diagnosing TB outside the lungs

Diagnosing TB in other parts of the body (extrapulmonary TB) requires more testing. Tests include:

Testing for HIV infection is often done at the time of TB diagnosis. You may also have a blood test for hepatitis.

Tests during TB treatment

During treatment, a sputum culture is done once a month—or more often—to make sure that the antibiotics are working. You may have a chest X-ray at the end of treatment to use as a comparison in the future.

You may have tests to see if TB medicines are harming other parts of your body. These tests may include:

Early detection

Public health officials encourage screening for people who are at risk for getting TB.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 04, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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