Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis
(TB) is a serious disease caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through the
air. Most often, TB infects the
lungs.
But it can also affect other parts of the body
such aslymph glands,
the brain, kidneys and spine.
TB
is a common cause of
death
worldwide.
Here is more information about TB, how it is treated, and ways to help prevent its
spread.

Outline of woman's head and chest with head turned to side. Inside of nose, airway, and lungs are visible. Man in background is coughing out droplets with TB germs. Droplets are being breathed in to woman's nose and lungs.

What are the risk factors for TB?

Anyone can get
TB.
But your risk is greatest if you:

  • Have an immune system
    weakened by medicinessuch as steroids or a disease such as HIV infection

  • Have close contact with
    someone who has untreated active
    TB of the
    lungs

  • Are
    older

  • Live or work in a residential facility, such as a shelter, nursing home, or prison

  • Travel to or come from a country where TB is common

How does TB spread?

TB germs (bacteria) are released
into the air when someone with the active form of
lung
TB coughs or sneezes. The bacteria spread easily, especially in
crowded places with poor airflow. The longer you breathe these germs, the more likely
you are to become infected.

What are the symptoms of TB?

There are 2 types of TB: inactive (also called latent TB infection) and active (also called TB disease).

Inactive TB (latent TB infection)

If you have been diagnosed with inactive TB, it means you:

  • Have live TB bacteria in your lungs, but the germs have been sealed off, much like a scab covers a wound. As a result, you don’t have symptoms or feel sick. The only way to know you have inactive TB is with a TB test.

  • Can’t spread the infection to others

  • Often
    need medicine to keep the infection from becoming active at some future
    time

Active TB (TB disease)

If you have been diagnosed with active TB, it means you:

  • Have symptoms of TB such
    as a lasting cough,
    phlegm,
    tiredness (fatigue), fever, night sweats,
    swollen
    glands,
    weight
    loss or
    other
    symptoms
    from the part of the body affected. You are likely to feel
    very sick.

  • Can spread the infection
    to
    others
    if your active TB
    affects
    the lungs or throat.

  • Must take medicine to help
    cure the disease. Treatment
    takes
    at least
    6 months. TB
    is
    sometimes

    hard to cure.

How is TB diagnosed?

Several
tests
are used
to
help
find
TB infection:

  • Skin test (PPD). A testing
    solution is placed just
    under
    the skin on your
    arm. This is
    done tosee
    if there is
    a reaction (such as a hard, red
    bump).
    You will need to return to the office in 2 or 3 days to have your arm checked. Be
    sure to keep the appointment. You will learn the test results during this
    visit.

  • Blood test.A
    small amount of blood is drawn and sent to a lab for testing.
    Your healthcare provider can tell you if this test is offered in your area.

  • Other tests. If you have TB
    infection, other tests, such as a chest X-ray, are needed to learn if the
    infection is active. Your
    provider
    may also take a sample of
    the
    mucus that comes up when you
    cough
    (sputum).
    Or the provider
    may
    do a biopsy of a swollen gland or other body part. The sample is
    sent to a lab and tested for TB bacteria. Knowing the type of bacteria causing
    your illness helps your provider choose the right medicine to treat the
    disease.

What do the test results mean?

  • A negative result
    often
    means that your body is free of TB
    bacteria.
    Sometimes the test can be
    negative,
    even
    in someone with TB infection or active TB.

  • A positive result means you
    have been exposed to the germs that cause TB. You may have an inactive or active
    infection.
    You
    will
    need further evaluation.

How is TB treated?

  • Both inactive and active TB
    are treated with medicines. If you have active TB, you
    will be
    prescribed

    more
    medicines
    for a longer time.

  • You will likely begin feeling
    better shortly after starting
    treatment.
    But
    keep taking
    all the medicine you have been prescribed. This is the only way to cure the
    disease. Not taking all the medicine means you won’t get well and can continue to
    spread TB germs to others.

  • Sometimes TB is
    drug-resistant. This means it doesn’t respond to 1 or more of the usual medicines
    for TB. Resistant TB is harder to
    cure. Itrequires
    different medicines and often longer
    treatment.

What is DOT?

During treatment, you may
be offered or be
required to
take
part in a program called DOT (directly observed therapy). In this
program, a nurse or healthcare worker supervises your treatment. This is a standard
approach. It makes it easier to manage medicines, watch for any side effects, and make
sure the medicines are working.

During treatment for TB

  • Take
    all the medicine as directed, even when you start feeling better. You will take
    the medicine for 6 months or longer. Sticking to this schedule takes patience. But
    stopping treatment early means your symptoms may come back. It may also lead to
    drug-resistant
    TB.

  • Check with your healthcare
    provider before using any
    over-the-counter
    (OTC) medicines that haven’t been
    prescribed.
    OTCs can interact with your prescription medicines

  • If you are taking birth control pills, you may need to use an additional backup method of birth control. Some TB medicines may make the pill less effective.

  • You might
    need to
    limit
    your activity to avoid fatigue.
     

  • Keep your medical appointments. You will need to be checked often to make sure that your medicine is working and you are getting better.

How
family and friends can help

TB
is a serious illness that takes a long time to cure. If you have a
family member or friend with TB, you can help by reminding your loved one to:

  • Take TB medicines at the same time every day (they’re best taken with water, milk, or juice 30 minutes before meals or at bedtime)

  • Keep all follow-up appointments (you can help by driving or arranging for a ride)

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Eat healthy meals

Preventing the spread of TB

If you have active
TB of the lungs
or throat, you should:

  • Ask family, friends, and the people you work with to get tested. Active TB can spread to other people.

  • Don’t
    have close contact with others until your healthcare provider
    says it’s OK.

  • Wash your hands often,
    especially after
    coughing.
    Use soap and water and scrub your hands for at least 15 to 30
    seconds.

  • Use a tissue to cover your
    mouth when you cough. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into your elbow, not your
    hand. Wash
    your hands after you cough or sneeze.

  • Wear a mask, if you have been
    told to do so, when you go out in public or visit your healthcare
    provider.

  • Use a plastic bag to throw away old tissues and other supplies.

When to
call
the healthcare provider

Call your
healthcare
provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or
    higher, or
    as directed by your provider

  • Increased coughing or coughing up blood

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

  • Worsening or recurring night
    sweats

  • Trouble breathing

Also call your healthcare provider if you are taking TB medicine and think you are having side effects. These include skin rash, yellowing of the eyes, or stomach problems.