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Tuberculosis: Symptoms, Risks, & Treatment
March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. This date was chosen because it honors Dr. Robert Koch’s announcement in 1882 of the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the cause of tuberculosis.2
We’ve shared some facts about tuberculosis, as well as the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment for it.
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, often referred to as TB, is a disease that affects the lungs.3 Many years ago, TB was the leading cause of death in the United States.4 After the 1950s, cases significantly dropped due to newfound treatments.
The bacteria that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is spread by tiny droplets that are released into the air from sneezing, coughing, spitting, or speaking. Tuberculosis is known to commonly affect the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body including the kidney, spine, or brain.5
TB is contagious, but it is not easily caught. You typically have to spend a lot of time with someone who is infected with TB to catch it.
When the immune system cannot stop the TB bacteria from growing, it multiples and causes people to become very sick and allows them to spread the disease to others.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Not everyone who comes in contact with TB or becomes infected with it will get sick or shows symptoms. There are two types of tuberculosis: active and inactive TB.
Inactive tuberculosis, also known as latent tuberculosis, will not cause any symptoms. However, if someone is showing symptoms, that means they have an active case of TB that can progress to TB disease.
Active tuberculosis occurs when someone does show symptoms. Some of the symptoms of active TB include:
- A cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats6
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms and are at risk for developing tuberculosis, contact your doctor.
Tuberculosis Risk Factors
- A recent infection with TB bacteria
- Health conditions that weaken the immune system
- Immigrating from areas in the world with high TB rates
- Working or living in areas where the risk for TB is high, including hospitals and homeless shelters7
Treatment for Tuberculosis
Treatment for tuberculosis will vary depending on the case, and doctors will help their patients determine which is the best option. Treatment will also depend on if someone has active or inactive TB.
For individuals with inactive or latent TB, doctors may recommend medication to kill the bacteria if that person is at high risk for developing active TB. For those with active TB, antibiotics are needed for at least 6 months, and sometimes even longer.
Some of the treatment options for inactive tuberculosis include:
- Isoniazid (INH) – this is the most common treatment for latent TB, and it’s a pill that’s taken daily for 9 months
- Rifampin – this antibiotic is taken daily for 4 months
- Isoniazid and Rifapentine – these two medications are taken once a week for 3 months8
To treat active TB, antibiotics are needed. A doctor may order a test to see which antibiotics will kill the specific TB strand that a patient has. Some of the medication options for active tuberculosis include:
There are some strands of tuberculosis that are considered drug-resistant, which means it doesn’t respond to the usual medications used to treat TB.8 In these cases, patients will have to take a combination of medications for a longer period of time.
Learn More about Tuberculosis
Take the time to learn more about tuberculosis, as well as its symptoms and causes. If you think you might have come in contact with tuberculosis or are at risk for developing it, consult with a medical professional for a diagnosis.
To learn more about Saber Healthcare and what we do, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 4th, 2021. Accessed March 16th, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/features/wtbd/2021WTBD_Feature.html#:~:text=Two%20billion%20people%20%E2%80%93%20one%20fourth,ill%20with%20drug%2Dresistant%20TB.
- “World TB Day.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 13th, 2022. Accessed March 16th, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/worldtbday/default.htm.
- “Tuberculosis.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. April 3rd, 2021. Accessed March 21st, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250.
- “Tuberculosis.” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. November 9th, 2018. Accessed March 21st, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11301-tuberculosis.
- “Basic TB Facts.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 22nd, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm.
- “Tuberculosis Symptoms and Diagnosis.” American Lung Association, lung.org. March 9th, 2020. Accessed March 21st, 2022. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/tuberculosis/symptoms-diagnosis.
- “TB Risk Factors.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 22nd, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/risk.htm.
- Ambardekar, Nayana. “What’s the Treatment for Tuberculosis?” WebMD, webmd.com. September 19th, 2021. Accessed March 22nd, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/lung/understanding-tuberculosis-treatment.