Tuberculosis Risk Factors, Prevention, Symptoms And Treatment


A dangerous condition that mostly affects the lungs is tuberculosis (TB). A particular sort of bacteria are the germs that cause TB.

When a person with tuberculosis coughs, sneezes, or sings, the disease can spread. Small droplets containing the germs may enter the air as a result. The germs then reach the lungs of a different individual who can breathe in the droplets.

Wherever people congregate or where people live in crowded settings, tuberculosis may spread quickly. The risk of contracting TB is greater in those with HIV/AIDS and other immune system disorders than in healthy individuals.

Antibiotic medications are used to treat TB. However, certain strains of the bacteria are no longer susceptible to cures.


The bacteria that causes TB is Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

People who have active TB illness in their voice box or lungs can transfer the infection. They expel microscopic droplets into the air, which transmit the germs. This may take place when they speak, sing, laugh, cough, or sneeze. After breathing in the droplets, a person may get an infection.

When people spend a lot of time together inside, the disease is more likely to spread. In areas where people live or work together often, the disease can spread quickly. Additionally, crowded settings make it easier for the disease to spread.

A person who has latent tuberculosis cannot spread the illness to others. Usually, a person receiving medication to treat active TB illness cannot spread the illness after receiving therapy for two to three weeks.

Anti-drug TB

The TB bacterium has developed antibiotic resistance in some types. This means that treatments that are used to treat the sickness are useless.

This occurs in part as a result of bacterial genetic alterations that occur spontaneously. A bacteria may acquire a trait by a chance genetic mutation that increases its resistance to an antibiotic's assault. If it does endure, it can reproduce.

The conditions are perfect for more resistant strains of the bacteria to establish themselves and proliferate when antibiotics are not utilized properly or when they do not completely eradicate the bacterium for some other reason. A new drug-resistant type of bacteria might emerge if these germs are spread to additional individuals.

These issues can result in bacteria with such drug-resistant strains, among others:

  • People either stopped using the medications or did not take them as prescribed.
  • The proper course of treatment was not recommended for them.
  • There were no drugs available.
  • The medications were of inferior calibre.
  • The medications were not absorbed by the body as intended.

How to check if you have Tuberculosis?

The signs and symptoms of several diseases overlap with those of TB. If your symptoms do not go away after a few days of rest, consult your doctor.

Immediately seek medical assistance if you have:

  • Ache in the chest.
  • Unexpectedly bad headache.
  • Confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Breathing challenges.

Get urgent or immediate attention if you:

  • Sneeze blood.
  • Your stool or pee contains blood.

Risk Factors

Anyone can contract TB, but several things make it more likely that they will. An infection's likelihood of developing into active TB illness is increased by other variables.

People who have a higher risk of contracting TB infection or having the illness actively should get a TB test. If you experience one or more of the risk factors listed below, see your doctor.

The illness is more easily contagious when certain living or working situations are present. These circumstances raise the chance of contracting TB:

  • Living next to a TB sufferer who is still unwell.
  • Living or visiting a place where TB is widespread, such as several in Latin America, Africa, Asia the Pacific Islands, etc.
  • Residing or working in residentially dense environments, such as prisons, nursing homes, and homeless shelters.
  • Being a resident of an area with a high TB risk.
  • Working in the medical field and treating patients who have a high TB risk.

The likelihood of a TB infection progressing to active TB illness is increased by a compromised immune system. Conditions or treatments that weaken immunity include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Significant renal disease.
  • Head, neck, and blood cancers.
  • Malnutrition or underweight condition.
  • Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment.
  • Drugs to stop organ transplant rejection.
  • The prolonged usage of prescribed steroids.
  • Injection of illicit substances.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Smoke and use other tobacco products
  • Age and TB illness in remission

Age affects the likelihood that a TB infection may progress to active TB illness.

Less than 5 years old. Children are at a high risk of developing active TB illness from a TB infection up until the age of five. Young children under two are particularly in danger. Meningitis, a dangerous condition affecting the fluid around the brain and spinal column, is frequently brought on by tuberculosis in this age range.

Age 15 to 25. This age group is more susceptible to more severe active TB lung disease.

65 years and older. As we age, the immune system deteriorates. The likelihood of having active TB illness is higher in older persons. The condition could also be more challenging to treat.


Infection with tuberculosis (TB) occurs when the TB germs persist and grow in the lungs. One of the three phases of TB infection may be present. Each stage has a particular set of symptoms.

First-time TB infection. The initial infection is the first stage. Pathogens are found and captured by immune system cells. The germs could be entirely eliminated by the immune system. However, some caught pathogens could still live and proliferate.

For the most part, a primary infection is symptomless. A few people may experience flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Minimal fever.
  • Tiredness.
  • Cough.

Latent tuberculosis. Latent TB infection is the stage that often follows primary infection. Immune system cells surround lung tissue harbouring TB bacteria with a wall. If the immune system is functioning properly, the bacteria system maintains control over them. Yet the bacteria persist. When TB is latent, there are no symptoms.

Active tuberculosis. When the immune system fails to suppress an infection, active TB illness results. Infectious agents spread sickness throughout the body, including the lungs. TB infection may become active as soon as the initial infection is over. It occurs when a latent TB infection has existed for months or years.

Lung TB illness symptoms often start off mildly and get worse over a few weeks. They may consist of:

  • Cough.
  • Blood or mucus being coughed up.
  • Ache in the chest.
  • Coughing or breathing discomfort.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Sweats during the night.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Unwilling to eat.
  • Tiredness.
  • Generally not feeling good.

Outside of the lungs, common locations for active TB illness include:

  • Kidneys.
  • Liver.
  • The spinal cord and brain are encased in fluid.
  • Cardiac muscle.
  • Genitals.
  • Lymph glands.
  • Joints and bones.
  • Skin.
  • Blood vessel walls.
  • Larynx, is another name for the voice box.

Childhood TB illness that is active. There are several signs of active TB illness in youngsters. In general, symptoms by age may consist of the following:

Teenagers. The symptoms resemble those of an adult.

From 1 to 12 years old. Younger children may have weight loss and an enduring fever.

Infants. The infant does not develop or put on weight as anticipated. A newborn may also exhibit signs of enlargement in the fluid around the brain or spinal cord, such as the following:

  • Being lethargic or inactive.
  • Unusually fussy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Soft patch on the skull that has grown.
  • Poor reaction times.


You might need to take medication to stop the development of active TB illness if you test positive for latent TB infection.

Limiting the spread of illness

You must take action to stop the spread of the infection if you have active tuberculosis. For four, six, or nine months, you will take medications. Throughout the entire period, take all medications exactly as prescribed.

You can spread the TB bacterium to others for the first two to three weeks. Take these actions to safeguard others:

  • Be at home. Attend neither job nor school.
  • Stay alone at home. Try to avoid interacting with family members as much as possible. Sleep in a different space.
  • Air out the space. In compact, enclosed areas, tuberculosis germs can spread more readily.
  • If it is not too chilly outdoors, open the windows.
  • To remove air, use a fan. If you have many windows, alternate between using one fan to blow air in and another to blow air out.
  • Put on a face mask. When you must be in public, put on a mask. In order to protect themselves, request that other family members use masks.
  • Embrace a mouthguard. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue. In a bag, package the used tissue, and toss it in the trash.


Babies are frequently immunised with the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination in nations where TB is widespread. Infants and toddlers who are more likely to have active TB illness in the fluid surrounding them are safeguarded by this.

Lung illness, which is more probable in the US, may not be protected by vaccination. Numerous novel TB vaccines are being developed and tested at various levels.


If you have a latent TB infection, your doctor may start you on pharmaceutical therapy. People with HIV/AIDS or other illnesses that increase their risk of contracting active TB disease should be particularly aware of this. Treatment for the majority of latent TB infections lasts three to four months.

It is feasible to get therapy for active TB disease for four, six, or nine months. Experts in TB therapy will determine which meds are best for you.

You will frequently see the doctor to monitor your development and watch out for any side effects.

Every dosage must be taken exactly as prescribed. You must also finish the entire course of therapy. To eliminate the germs already present in your body and stop the emergence of new, drug-resistant bacteria, do this.

If you have a latent TB infection, you might only need to take one or two different kinds of drugs. Multiple medications are needed to treat active TB illness. The following are drugs used to treat tuberculosis:

  • Isoniazid.
  • Rimactane (rifampin).
  • Mycobutin (Rifabutin).
  • Priftin (rifapentine).
  • Pyrazinamide.
  • Myambutol, or ethambutol.

If you have drug-resistant TB or other problems, you could be given different medications because of your sickness.

Side effects of medication

Taking TB medications often has no negative side effects. Your healthcare professional could advise you to discontinue taking medication if you have severe adverse effects. A medication's dosage may need to be adjusted.

If you suffer any of the following, see a medical professional:

  • Stomach pains.
  • Vomiting.
  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Really bad diarrhoea.
  • Stool with a light colour.
  • Urine colour.
  • Skin tone or eyes that are yellow.
  • Alterations to eyesight.
  • Unsteadiness or balance issues.
  • Tingling in the feet or hands.
  • Bleeding or bruising easily.
  • Loss of weight without cause.
  • Unjustified fatigue.
  • Despair or sadness.
  • Rash.
  • Joint discomfort.

You must mention every medication, dietary supplement, and herbal remedy you use. You might have to stop taking a few of the medications during your therapy.

Complications of Tuberculosis

  • Joint injury is one consequence of tuberculosis infection.
  • Lung injury.
  • Bone, spinal cord, brain, or lymph node infection or injury.
  • Renal or liver issues.
  • Inflammation of the heart's surrounding tissues.


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Page last reviewed: May 24, 2023

Next review due: May 24, 2025

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