Tuberculosis (TB) Disease

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs.

TB is transmitted through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, releasing tiny droplets containing the bacteria. Factors that increase the risk of contracting TB include close contact with an infected individual, living in crowded or poorly ventilated environments, weakened immune system (such as HIV/AIDS or certain medications), malnutrition, and smoking.

Types of TB.

There are two primary forms of TB: latent TB infection and active TB disease. Latent TB infection occurs when the bacteria are present in the body but are kept in check by the immune system, causing no symptoms. Active TB disease occurs when the immune system fails to control the bacteria, resulting in symptoms and the potential for transmission to others.

Symptoms.

TB primarily affects the lungs, but it can also impact other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. Common symptoms of active TB disease include persistent coughing (sometimes with blood), chest pain, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, fever, night sweats, and loss of appetite. Symptoms may be mild and develop gradually, leading to delayed diagnosis.

Diagnosis.

If TB is suspected, a healthcare professional will conduct a thorough evaluation. This may include a physical examination, review of medical history, chest X-ray, and sputum analysis. Sputum analysis involves examining a sample of mucus produced during coughing to identify the presence of TB bacteria. In some cases, additional tests such as a CT scan or a biopsy may be necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment.

TB is a treatable disease. The primary treatment for active TB disease involves a combination of antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. The most commonly used medications include isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. The treatment course typically lasts for several months to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria. It is essential to follow the prescribed treatment regimen diligently to prevent the development of drug-resistant strains of TB.

Prevention and Lifestyle Changes

Preventing the transmission and spread of TB is crucial. Here are some preventive measures individuals can take:

  1. Vaccination: The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can help protect against severe forms of TB, particularly in children.
  2. Infection Control: Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues or elbows, and promptly disposing of used tissues can help prevent the spread of TB.
  3. Ventilation: Ensuring proper ventilation in living spaces helps reduce the concentration of infectious particles in the air.
  4. Screening and Testing: Regular screening for TB is essential, especially for individuals at higher risk, such as healthcare workers or those living in high-risk areas.
  5. Treatment of Latent TB Infection: Individuals with latent TB infection should receive appropriate treatment to prevent the progression to active TB disease.
  6. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a strong immune system through a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management can help reduce the risk of developing TB.

Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease that can have severe health consequences if left untreated. Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and adherence to preventive measures are essential in controlling the spread of TB. If you experience symptoms or suspect exposure to TB, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Causes and Risk Factors

Back to top

TB is transmitted through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, releasing tiny droplets containing the bacteria. Factors that increase the risk of contracting TB include close contact with an infected individual, living in crowded or poorly ventilated environments, weakened immune system (such as due to HIV/AIDS or certain medications), malnutrition, and smoking.

Types of TB

Back to top

There are two primary forms of TB: latent TB infection and active TB disease. Latent TB infection occurs when the bacteria are present in the body but are kept in check by the immune system, causing no symptoms. Active TB disease occurs when the immune system fails to control the bacteria, resulting in symptoms and the potential for transmission to others.

Symptoms

Back to top

TB primarily affects the lungs, but it can also impact other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. Common symptoms of active TB disease include persistent coughing (sometimes with blood), chest pain, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, fever, night sweats, and loss of appetite. Symptoms may be mild and develop gradually, leading to delayed diagnosis.

Diagnosis

Back to top

If TB is suspected, a healthcare professional will conduct a thorough evaluation. This may include a physical examination, review of medical history, chest X-ray, and sputum analysis. Sputum analysis involves examining a sample of mucus produced during coughing to identify the presence of TB bacteria. In some cases, additional tests such as a CT scan or a biopsy may be necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment

Back to top

TB is a treatable disease. The primary treatment for active TB disease involves a combination of antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. The most commonly used medications include isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. The treatment course typically lasts for several months to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria. It is essential to follow the prescribed treatment regimen diligently to prevent the development of drug-resistant strains of TB.

Prevention and Lifestyle Changes

Back to top

Preventing the transmission and spread of TB is crucial. Here are some preventive measures individuals can take:

  1. Vaccination: The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can help protect against severe forms of TB, particularly in children.
  2. Infection Control: Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues or elbows, and promptly disposing of used tissues can help prevent the spread of TB.
  3. Ventilation: Ensuring proper ventilation in living spaces helps reduce the concentration of infectious particles in the air.
  4. Screening and Testing: Regular screening for TB is essential, especially for individuals at higher risk, such as healthcare workers or those living in high-risk areas.
  5. Treatment of Latent TB Infection: Individuals with latent TB infection should receive appropriate treatment to prevent the progression to active TB disease.
  6. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a strong immune system through a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management can help reduce the risk of developing TB.

Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease that can have severe health consequences if left untreated. Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and adherence to preventive measures are essential in controlling the spread of TB. If you experience symptoms or suspect exposure to TB, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment




This referenced content has been reviewed by Dr Cilliers, who is a qualified medical doctor with extensive experience in the private healthcare sector of South Africa, particularly in the disciplines of emergency medicine, general practice, geriatrics, healthcare leadership, sub-acute care and physical rehabilitation.

  1. World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/tuberculosis#tab=tab_1
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis (TB) – Causes & Transmission. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/causes.htm
  3. World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis (TB) – Symptoms & Causes. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/symptoms.htm
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis (TB) – Diagnosis. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/testing/default.htm
  6. World Health Organization. Guidelines for Treatment of Drug-Susceptible Tuberculosis and Patient Care. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44165/9789241547833_eng.pdf
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis (TB) – Treatment. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/treatment/default.htm
  8. World Health Organization. Latent Tuberculosis Infection: Updated and Consolidated Guidelines for Programmatic Management. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260233/9789241550239-eng.pdf
  9. World Health Organization. Tuberculosis: Prevention and Control. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis#prevention
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis (TB) – Get Tested. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/testing/gettested.htm

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

For more health information

Click on the body area you want to know more about. Select a related health topic from the menu

Select a body area
Head
Chest
Abdomen
Pelvis
Legs
Feet
Mental Health
Skin
General
Infant Health
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Although deemed as ‘normal’, teething may be accompanied by a fever, irritability, diarrhoea and poor sleep; amongst other things. Was this ....
Flu
Flu
There has been a steady increase in the number of flu cases reported recently. This is unusual because the flu season usually runs from March to ....
Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea
When is a runny tummy actually diarrhoea, and when to use an antidiarrhoeal? Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your feedback! Was this ....
Sinus
Sinus
Sinuses are spaces in the bones of your cheeks, your forehead and your nose. Was this helpful? Submit Cancel Thanks for your feedback! Was this ....
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella – MMR
Measles, Mumps and Rubella can be highly infectious diseases1 and can spread through droplets of saliva, inhaled or picked up from surfaces and ....