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Tuberculosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on February 15, 2016


Cavitary tuberculosis
Cavitary tuberculosis | Source

Tuberculosis, a contagious disease is a bacterial infection caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs though it can attack other parts of the body.

People who have been infected by tuberculosis bacteria which have attacked their lungs are prone to spread the disease through the air when they cough, sneeze, talk or spit. When they do so – cough, sneeze, spit or talk – they release TB germs into the air. Since tuberculosis is an air-borne disease; when a person is nearby to such an infected person, he/she will inhale the germs, thereby becoming infected.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) if TB is left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect an average of between 10 and 15 people every year. It further states that one-third of the world’s population is currently infected with the TB.

The people who are more likely to develop tuberculosis are those whose immune system is weak such as those infected with HIV.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis

  • Continuous coughing lasting for more than two weeks

  • Loss of weight

  • Coughing up blood or mucus

  • Sweating during night

  • Fever

  • Vomiting or nausea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Jaundice

  • Urine appears to be dark

Renal Tuberculosis
Renal Tuberculosis | Source

Treatment of Tuberculosis

If not treated immediately, the disease can turn out to be deadly which means it can be life-threatening or lead to death.

According to MayoClinic, treating TB takes much longer than treating other types of bacterial infections. It is recommended that a person infected with tuberculosis should take antibiotics for a minimum of six months. “The exact drugs and length of treatment depend on your age, overall health, possible drug resistance, the form of TB (latent or active) and its location in the body.” (MayoClinic)

In the case of latent tuberculosis one drug or a few may be recommended to kill the germ from proceeding to active tuberculosis. If a person when treated is found to have active tuberculosis, a combination of different antibiotics is recommended or administered. The course of treatment according to NHS includes:

  • Two antibiotics – Isioniazed and rifampicin which should be taken everyday for the first two months.

  • Two additional antibiotics – Pyrazinamide and ethambutol which should be taken everyday for the first two months.

“After a few weeks, you won’t be contagious and you may start to feel better. It might be tempting to stop taking your TB drugs. But it is crucial that you finish the full course of therapy and take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Stopping treatment too soon or skipping doses can allow the bacteria that are still alive to become resistant to those drugs, leading to TB that is much more dangerous and difficult to treat.” (MayoClinic)


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