Tuberculosis (TB)

Description of Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs. It is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease is contagious and severe and can be fatal if not treated. It spreads from one person to another via small droplets released into the air by a person suffering from TB.

TB can also affect other body organs such as the lymph nodes, bones, joints, kidney, spine, and brain.
Causes and Risk factors
TB usually occurs when you come in contact with the TB-causing bacteria. Other bacteria that can cause TB are Mycobacterium africanum and Mycobacterium bovis.

Risk factors for TB include:
1. Being in close contact with someone suffering from TB.
2. Low immunity: Children, elderly or those with HIV infection are more prone to TB infection.
3. Smoking
4. Alcohol abuse also increases your risk for TB infection
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms depend on the body organ infected by the bacteria. Sometimes, the bacteria may be present in the body without causing the disease. It is called latent TB infection. In other cases, TB infection may cause symptoms to appear within a few weeks (active TB infection).
When it affects the lungs, the symptoms of pulmonary (lung) TB include:
1. Constant cough lasting 3 weeks or more
2. Shortness of breath
3. Blood in the cough
4. Weakness or fatigue
5. Loss of appetite
6. Fever
7. Chest pain
8. Red rashes on the legs
Your doctor may perform a physical exam and do a chest x-ray, CT scan or bronchoscopy.
Two types of tests are used for diagnosing TB:
1. TB skin test
2. TB blood test
Treatment for TB depends on whether your TB is latent or active. Latent TB infection requires treatment as it may progress to active form when your immunity goes down. Four kinds of treatment regimens with duration extending from 3 to 9 months are available for treatment of latent TB infection.
Treatment for active TB infection involves 2 stages: Intensive phase for first 2 months followed by continuation phase for 4 to 6 months. You may need to take a combination of several drugs during the treatment period. DOT (directly observed therapy) is recommended to ensure adherence to treatment regimen.
A good diet that helps build up immunity is essential for treating TB.
Complications and When Should You See a Doctor 
If not treated early, TB may spread to other parts of the body. If you do not take your medicines as prescribed by the doctor, your TB may progress into drug-resistant TB where it stops responding to medicines.

Contact a medical professional if you:
1. Cough up blood
2. Have sudden onset of chest pain with shortness of breath
3. Stop responding to treatment
4. Develop TB symptoms again after full recovery
Content Details
Last updated on:
04 Sep 2017 | 05:15 PM (IST)
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Frequently Asked Questions about Tuberculosis (TB)

Yes. TB can spread from one person to another through small droplets released into the air by a person suffering from pulmonary TB.
Yes. TB may be fatal if treatment is not started early and the patient does not follow the treatment regimen strictly.
Yes. TB is completely curable if treatment is started early and the treatment regimen is followed strictly.
No. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection usually caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
No. Tuberculosis is NOT genetic. It is caused by a bacterial infection.
Yes. Tuberculosis is a chronic disease with a latent stage. The symptoms get worse with time if not treated.
No. Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease that spreads through small droplets released into the air by a person suffering from pulmonary TB.
No. TB itself does not cause hair loss. However, certain medicines used for treatment of TB may cause hair loss.
Yes. Tuberculosis is contagious. It spreads through small droplets released into the air by a person suffering from pulmonary TB. Being in close contact with a person suffering from TB may expose you to the infection. If you feel you have been exposed to the infection, talk to your doctor immediately.
Yes. If a pregnant women has TB, the baby may be born low-birth weight. In rare cases, the infection may be passed to the baby by the mother.
Yes. Tuberculosis of the female genital tract may cause infertility.
TB occurring after cancer treatment is common since the immunity is usually low after chemotherapy. However, tuberculosis has also been linked to pulmonary (lung) cancer. It is possible that inflammation that occurs during tuberculosis may cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.
Yes. Tuberculosis may cause red rashes on the lower part of the legs which may be lumpy or ulcerated.
No. Tuberculosis does not spread by kissing. It also do NOT spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drink, or even by sharing toothbrush.
Yes. Tuberculosis infection can affect eyes. Ocular TB or eye TB can cause blurry vision, redness, light sensitivity, headache, and eye floaters.
Yes. Tuberculosis may recur. The chances of recurrence is high if the initial treatment is not completed properly (relapse). A person may also get infected with the TB bacteria again (re-infection).
Yes. BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) is a vaccine for tuberculosis. It is given to infants in countries where the incidence of TB is high.
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and do a chest X-ray, CT scan or bronchoscopy. TB skin test or blood test may be done to look for TB infection. Early morning sample of your sputum may be observed under a microscope to help diagnose pulmonary TB. Other forms of TB may require biopsy or some antigen tests