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Tuberculosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


The infectious disease known as tuberculosis, or TB for short, is brought on by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. Although it can also affect other sections of the body, its primary effect is on the lungs. Despite being preventable and curable, TB remains a significant global health concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Understanding its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment is crucial in combating this ancient disease.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious disease primarily affecting the lungs, though it can harm other organs like the brain or kidneys. It originates from the Latin word for “nodule.”

TB may remain latent without symptoms or progress to active disease, characterised by contagion and symptoms. Its stages include primary infection, latent TB infection, and active TB disease. Treatment is essential for sickness.

What are the Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

Latent TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, may be asymptomatic for years before progressing to active TB disease. Active TB manifests various symptoms, primarily respiratory, but can affect other body parts.

Lung symptoms include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood or phlegm
  • Chest pain

General symptoms comprise:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Appetite and weight loss

TB spreading to other organs presents additional symptoms such as:

  • Blood in urine and kidney dysfunction if affecting the kidneys
  • Back pain and spinal irregularities if affecting the spine
  • Nausea, confusion, and loss of consciousness if reaching the brain.

You Can Also Read: How to Avoid Influenza?

What are the Causes of Tuberculosis?

The germ that causes tuberculosis, or TB, is called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Various strains of TB exist, some of which have developed resistance to medication.

TB bacteria are spread through infected droplets in the air, which can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Transmission can occur through actions such as sneezing, coughing, speaking, or singing.

Individuals with a strong immune system may not exhibit TB symptoms despite being infected, a condition referred to as latent or inactive TB infection. It is estimated that around a quarter of the global population carries latent TB.

Latent TB is not contagious, but it can progress to active disease over time. Active TB disease can cause illness and is also transmissible to others.

What are the Risk Factors for Contracting TB?

Certain risk factors elevate the likelihood of contracting TB, like:

  • Diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, malnutrition
  • Long-term tobacco/alcohol use
  • HIV or immune compromise

Certain medications also increase risk, such as:

Over 95% of TB deaths occur in developing nations, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, India and parts of Asia. 

Limited healthcare access increases risk, affecting:

  • Lower-income households
  • Homeless individuals
  • Those in congregate settings like prisons

TB is a top cause of death for HIV-positive people. Testing, HIV treatment adherence, avoiding TB exposure, quitting smoking, a balanced diet, and exercise prevent TB progression.

How is Tuberculosis Diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals use a range of tests to diagnose TB, each with distinct considerations. These include:

  • Testing methods: Skin tests, like the PPD test, involve injecting protein under the skin, with results read after 2-3 days. Blood tests, such as Quantiferon and T-Spot, offer complementary insights beyond skin tests.
  • Dual testing: If a skin test is positive or a false negative is suspected, both skin and blood tests may be necessary for accurate diagnosis.
  • Interpretation: Skin test results hinge on welt size, with variations in interpretation. Blood test results can be positive, negative, or indeterminate.
  • Confirmation: Chest X-rays confirm TB infection, guiding treatment decisions, while sputum tests detect bacterial presence, necessitating precautions.
  • Further assessment: Ambiguous results may require additional tests like CT scans or biopsies to clarify.

What is the Treatment for Tuberculosis?

Treatment for tuberculosis (TB) involves a combination of antibiotics taken over several months. This combination, known as “first-line” treatment, lasts at least six months. Patients must adhere strictly to their prescribed medication regimen and complete the entire course, even if symptoms improve. This prevents drug-resistant strains from emerging.

Monitoring by healthcare providers is crucial to assess treatment response and identify any side effects or complications. In cases of drug-resistant TB, treatment is more complex and may require different antibiotic combinations.

You Can Also Read: How to keep lungs healthy?

What is the Prevention Method for Tuberculosis?

In low-risk areas, understanding TB prevention is crucial. Precautions remain essential, particularly in high-risk settings.

Prevention measures

  • Consult a healthcare professional for testing post-exposure, especially for those with HIV or heightened infection risk.
  • Test before and after travelling to high TB prevalence countries.
  • Adhere to workplace infection control protocols.
  • Avoid prolonged contact with active TB patients.

Transmission prevention

  • Test high-risk individuals for TB.
  • Adhere to medication regimen for positive cases.
  • Isolate until non-contagious if diagnosed with active TB.
  • Wear masks around others for active TB cases.
  • Follow medical guidance diligently.


Tuberculosis remains a pressing global health concern, necessitating continued efforts in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. With collaborative action, we can strive towards a world free from the burden of TB. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced pulmonologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a pulmonologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.


Can Tb Be Completely Cured?

Yes, tuberculosis (TB) can be completely cured with appropriate antibiotic treatment, usually a combination of drugs taken for several months, ensuring eradication of the bacteria from the body.

How is TB Transmitted and Can It Be Prevented?

When an infected individual coughs or sneezes, the disease spreads via the air. Prevention involves vaccination, early detection, treatment of infected individuals, and practising good respiratory hygiene to reduce transmission.

Are There Long-term Effects of TB?

Yes, untreated TB can lead to serious complications such as lung damage, respiratory problems, and even death. Timely treatment can prevent long-term effects and promote recovery.

How to Manage TB in Close Contacts and Family Members?

Close contacts and family members of TB patients should undergo screening for infection, receive preventive therapy if indicated, adhere to infection control measures, and follow up with healthcare providers for monitoring.

What Are the Signs of TB Treatment Failure or Relapse?

Signs of TB treatment failure or relapse include persistent symptoms, worsening of symptoms after initial improvement, positive sputum tests, and radiographic evidence of disease progression despite treatment. Prompt medical evaluation is essential.

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