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Understanding Tuberculosis and 5 Symptoms Suggestive of It

Updated on March 4, 2012

Tuberculosis is a disease entity caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, usually affects the lungs but could also affect any organ in the body. It is endemic in most parts of the globe and is a cause of morbidity and mortality. Tuberculosis is treatable, although it take a couple of months, it can be cured, but if left untreated it could be fatal in most cases. Since tuberculosis is endemic in my country, below are 5 symptoms that could include tuberculosis as a differential diagnosis.

Cough - one might suspect tuberculosis a person is living in an endemic country and has cough for 2 weeks or more. One could entertain tuberculosis especially if the person in question has exposure to tuberculosis. Since tuberculosis is spread through airborne particles, coughing is its main mode of spreading. If you have cough may it be productive or non-productive and if you think you have been exposed to tuberculosis seek medical consult to be tested for possible tuberculosis.

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Hemoptysis (coughing out blood) – hemoptysis or coughing out of blood can be a sign of different disease entities, but one to consider is pulmonary tuberculosis. Same as the above symptom, if you are exposed to someone who has tuberculosis and after which you had hemoptysis, consideration for tuberculosis is high. Some patients would just cough out a little blood while some would cough out quite a large amount of blood needing admission to a hospital. If you have hemoptysis, seeking consult is advisable to rule out a communicable disease like tuberculosis.

Fever/Chills/Night Sweats – fever in tuberculosis usually happen in the afternoon. It is usually low grade, something associated with chills, and occurs in the afternoon or early at night. It could also sometimes present with night sweats also associated with some degree of chills. Although many disease entities can share your common fever, the fever of tuberculosis usually occurs in the afternoon and is not persistent, and if fever is associated with either one of the first two symptoms, the percentage for considering tuberculosis increases.

Weight loss – some patients with tuberculosis usually present with weight loss at initial checkup. They’ll present with unexplained weight loss, then upon diagnosis and start of treatment, most of them will eventually gain weight again. Unexplained weight loss can also be seen in other disease entities especially malignancy, but same with fever, if it presents with either of the 1st two symptoms, tuberculosis should be entertain.

Easy Fatigability – a previous healthy individual suddenly complains of easy fatigability or body malaise without apparent reason and is associated with the 1st symptom (cough), and if that individual is living in an endemic place, then a workup for tuberculosis should be initiated. If diagnosed with tuberculosis, body weakness usually improves with treatment of the disease.

Keep in mind these common symptoms because tuberculosis can be highly contagious and fatal if untreated. Tuberculosis is curable and the World Health Organization (WHO) is targeting to eradicate this disease in the coming years.


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