Tuberculosis (TB) - Topic Overview
Most of the time when
people are first infected with TB, the disease is so mild that they don't even
know they have it. People with
latent TB don't have symptoms unless the disease
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).
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. A blood test also can be done to look for TB.
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
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. If the TB bacteria are resistant to several antibiotics (multidrug-resistant TB), then treatment may be needed for a year or longer.