Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection. TB may be either active or latent. Latent forms can stay in your body and not make you sick. Latent TB may become active if you are ill, have a weakened immune system or for no known reason. TB infection most is most common in the lungs, but it can occur in other places in the body.
TB is a highly contagious disease caused by a specific bacteria (
). It is transmitted by air from one person to another. This can happen during coughing, sneezing, or talking. Once airborne, the bacteria can be breathed in by other people causing exposure or active infection. You can only pass the infection to other people if you have active TB.
Pathway to the Lungs Mycobacterium tuberculosis
is inhaled through the mouth and nose and travels down into the lungs causing TB.
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Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection. TB may be either active or latent. Latent forms can stay in your body and not make you sick. Latent TB may become active if you are ill, have a weakened immune system or for no known reason.
TB infection most is most common in the lungs, but it can occur in other places in the body.
Active or latent TB may be found during a routine check-up.Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, including if you think you were exposed to TB. A physical exam will be done. Tests that can detect the disease include:
- Blood tests
- Skin test (PPD or Mantoux test)
If you have symptoms that indicate active TB, your doctor may do the following tests:
- Chest x-ray
- Samples of your sputum
- Fluid or tissue tests, especially if the disease is not in the lungs
To help reduce your chance of TB exposure, take these steps:
- Follow occupational guidelines at your work place.
- Try to avoid contact with people who have active TB.
- Limit travel to areas with high rates of TB.
If you have been exposed to TB, take these steps to prevent it from becoming active:
- Get regular skin testing.
- Take all antibiotic medication.
- Manage any chronic diseases as directed by your doctor.
- If you smoke, find out the best ways you can quit.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. That is two drinks per day for men, and one per day for women.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Talk with your doctor about the TB
. It is not often used in the United States because the amount of protection is unclear.
If you have active TB, take these steps to protect others from infection:
- Stay at home
- Circulate air in your rooms
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing
- Consider wearing a surgical mask
Factors that may increase your chance of TB exposure include:
- Close contact with a person infected with active TB
- Living in or traveling to an area where there are high rates of TB
- Working in certain occupations, such as farming, funeral homes, and healthcare
- Living or working in crowded, indoor conditions, such as prisons, hospitals, homeless shelters, or nursing homes
Factors that increase your chance of getting active TB after exposure:
Chronic diseases that weaken the immune system:
- Severe kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
or other occupationals lung diseases
- Active or passive smoking
or substance abuse
- Low socioeconomic status
- Specific age groups—infants, young children, and elderly people are more susceptible
- Certain medications that weaken or suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer
Latent TB does not cause symptoms. Once symptoms appear, the disease becomes active. Active TB may cause:
that lasts more than two weeks
- Coughing up blood and mucus
- Pain in the chest
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
Medication can keep TB from becoming active. It can also help cure active TB. It is very important that you take all the medication exactly as prescribed. Take all the medication, even if the symptoms go away. If you do not finish your medication, you may relapse or develop drug-resistant TB. This form is very difficult to cure.