Tuberculosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection of the lungs that you can get from breathing in germs from an infected person. You may notice you’ve been coughing a lot recently, coughing up blood, sweating at night, and losing weight without trying. But, even so, many people who have TB don’t know it because they don’t have any symptoms or they have symptoms common to other health conditions. It is important to see a doctor for this condition even if you don’t have symptoms because it can get worse later in life and be fatal if untreated. Read on to learn more about TB and what to do if you have it.

What Is Tuberculosis?

TB is an infection of the lungs with a germ (Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or M. tuberculosis). This bacterium infects your lungs if you breathe it in, but it can also spread to infect other organs in your body.
There are different ways that doctors classify and manage TB infection in the lungs. First, when exposed to TB, you get primary TB which can have symptoms of active lung infection. Then the infection becomes latent, and you don’t have symptoms during this time even though the infection still lives in your lungs. This is called latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). Then after years of having LTBI, your TB can be reactivated if you experience immunocompromise or a weakened immune system. When your TB is reactivated, you’ll have symptoms of active lung infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

If you have TB, the main symptoms you may have include:
  • Having a cough that lasts three weeks or more
  • Coughing up blood
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Unintentional weight loss
Other symptoms you may have with your TB infection can include:
  • Chest pain, especially with breathing or coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
TB can also affect other organs in your body, including your spine, heart, kidneys, or brain. When this occurs, it’s referred to as extrapulmonary tuberculosis. TB that affects your spine can cause back pain. When it affects your heart, it can cause your heart to swell and prevent it from pumping effectively. If it affects your kidneys, it can cause blood in your urine. If it affects your brain, you can get meningitis or swelling of the brain and the membranes surrounding it.

Causes of Tuberculosis

What causes TB? You can get TB when someone with active TB releases respiratory droplets that contain the bacteria that cause TB into the air, and you breathe them in. Someone with active TB may spread these droplets by coughing, sneezing, laughing, spitting, or speaking.
There are several risk factors for TB:
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system, like HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, severe kidney disease, low body weight, or substance abuse issues
  • Close contact with those infected with TB
  • Homelessness
  • Taking immunosuppressing medications after having an organ transplant
  • Recent travel to or residence in countries with high rates of TB, like India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines
  • Use of certain medications, like corticosteroids (drugs that suppress the immune system) and specialized treatments for arthritis or Crohn’s disease
  • Work or residence in institutions with a high risk of tuberculosis infection, such as hospitals, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and residential homes for people with HIV


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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