Updated: November 24, 2017
Tuberculosis or TB is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs which is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis(MTB).
Tuberculosis can be fatal if left untreated. Untreated active disease typically affects your lungs, but it can spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream. Tuberculosis complications include:
TB infecting the bones can lead to spinal pain. Back pain and stiffness are common complications of this type of tuberculosis.
TB infecting the bones can lead to joint destruction. Tuberculous arthritis usually affects the hips and knees.
TB infecting the brain can lead to swelling of the membranes that cover your brain. This can cause a lasting or intermittent headache that occurs for weeks. Mental changes also are possible.
Your liver and kidneys help filter waste and impurities from your bloodstream. TB infecting the liver and kidneys can impair their waste filtration functions and lead to blood in the urine.
Rarely, tuberculosis can infect the tissues that surround your heart, causing inflammation and fluid collections that may interfere with your heart's ability to pump effectively. This condition is called cardiac tamponade which can be fatal.
If you test positive for latent TB infection, your should take medications to reduce your risk of developing active tuberculosis. Active TB, when it affects the lungs is contagious. So if you can prevent your latent tuberculosis from becoming active, you won't transmit tuberculosis to anyone else.
Most people with active TB who have received appropriate treatment for at least 2 weeks are no longer contagious. Until then follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting infected:
Stay away from workplace or school and do not sleep in a room with other people during the first few weeks of treatment for active tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis germs spread more easily in small closed spaces where air does not move. Open the windows and use a fan to blow indoor air outside if it is not too cold outdoors.
Wearing a surgical mask when you are around other people during the first three weeks of treatment may help reduce the risk of transmission of germs.
Use a tissue or handkerchief to cover your mouth anytime you laugh, sneeze or cough.
It is crucial that you should finish the full course of therapy and take the medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor even if the TB symptoms have gone away. After a few weeks, you won't be contagious and you may start to feel better. Any bacteria that have survived the treatment could become resistant to the medication that has been prescribed and could lead to developing MDR-TB in the future which is is much more dangerous and difficult to treat.
BCG injections are recommended for children in order to vaccinate them against tuberculosis. But it is not recommended for adults because it is not effective, and can adversely influence the results of skin testing diagnoses.