Tuberculosis (TB) - Topic Overview
Symptoms of active TB may include:
- A cough that brings up thick, cloudy, and sometimes bloody
mucus from the lungs (called
sputum) for more than 2 weeks.
and weight loss.
- Night sweats and a fever.
- A rapid
- Swelling in the neck (when
lymph nodes in the neck are infected).
- Shortness of breath and chest pain (in rare cases).
How is TB diagnosed?
Doctors usually find latent
TB by doing a tuberculin skin test. During the skin test, a doctor or nurse
will inject TB
antigens under your skin. If you have TB bacteria in
your body, within 2 days you will get a red bump where the needle went into
your skin. The test can't tell when you became infected with TB or if it can be
spread to others.
To find pulmonary TB, doctors test a sample of
mucus from the lungs (sputum) to see if there are TB bacteria in it. Doctors
sometimes do other tests on sputum and blood or take a chest X-ray to help find pulmonary TB.
extrapulmonary TB, doctors can take a sample of tissue (biopsy) to test. Or you might get a
CT scan or an
MRI so the doctor can see pictures of the inside of
How is it treated?
Most of the time, doctors
antibiotics to treat active TB. It?s important to take
the medicine for active TB for at least 6 months. Almost all people are cured
if they take their medicine just like their doctors say to take it. If tests
still show an active TB infection after 6 months, then treatment continues for
another 2 or 3 months.
Most people with latent TB are treated
with only one antibiotic that they take for 9 months. This reduces their risk
for getting active TB.
If you miss doses of your medicine, or if
you stop taking your medicine too soon, your treatment may fail or have to go
on longer. You may have to start your treatment over again. This can also cause
the infection to get worse or may lead to an infection that is
resistant to antibiotics. This is much harder to
TB can only be cured if you take all the doses of your
medicine. A doctor or nurse may have to watch you take it to make sure that you
never miss a dose and that you take it the proper way. You may have to go to
the doctor's office every day. Or a nurse may come to your home or work. This
is called direct observational treatment. It helps people follow all of the
instructions and keep up with their treatment, which can be complex and take a
long time. Cure rates for TB have greatly improved because of this type of