Early symptoms of tuberculosis (TB)

Early symptoms It could be argued that the earliest of early symptoms of tuberculosis is a latent TB infection. Latent TB is neither asymptomatic nor contagious, and it isn’t a foregone conclusion that someone who is infected will become sick with tuberculosis. However, some people with latent TB do go on to develop active TB, and as such experience the resulting symptoms.

Tuberculosis signs and symptoms include:

·         Coughing that lasts three weeks or longer.

·         Coughing up blood.

·         Chest pain.

·         Pain when breathing or coughing.

·         Involuntary weight loss.

·         Fatigue.

·         Fever.

·         Night sweats.

·         Chills.

·         Appetite loss.

·         Weakness.

A person may be infected with latent TB for weeks and even years before they ever experience any of these symptoms. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that everybody needs to get a TB test. According to the CDC, only people who are at an increased risk should be screened for latent tuberculosis. Your overall health, domicile, and line of work can make you more susceptible to becoming infected and developing TB.

Tuberculosis risk factors





Conditions that weaken the immune system

  • Diabetes.
  • End-stage kidney disease.
  • Certain cancers and cancer treatments.
  • Drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.
  • Some drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Very young or advanced age.



Traveling to or living in

  • Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • India.
  • China.
  • Russia.
  • Pakistan.

Socioeconomic status

·         Improper medical care due to low income or homelessness.

Lifestyle choices

·         Substance abuse.

·         Illegal drug use.

·         Smoking.



·         Healthcare work.

·         Living or working in a residential care facility.

·         Living in a refugee camp or shelter, migrant farm camp, prison or jail, and some nursing homes.


The most common test performed to diagnose tuberculosis is called a TB skin test. Unfortunately, TB skin tests are prone to false positives and false negatives. Moreover, even when correct it can only indicate whether a person is infected but not if the person has a latent infection or TB disease proper. Other diagnostic tools include:

·         Blood tests.

·         Imaging tests.

·         Sputum tests.

Unlike the latent infection, active TB is contagious though not easy to contract. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection transmitted through microscopic droplets released when a person with active TB coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs, or sings (it is not transmitted by shaking hands, sharing food or drinks, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing). However, you’re not nearly as likely to catch from a stranger in a train as you are from someone you live with. In fact, you can consider yourself at risk if you’ve spent time with a person known to have TB disease or suspected to have TB disease. Additionally, you’re at risk if you have been infected with TB bacteria yourself in the past two years, especially if you were not treated properly. Hence, if you are at risk or have experienced the early symptoms of tuberculosis, go ahead and see your doctor. Otherwise you might be setting yourself up for some of the common complications of TB, such as:

·         Spinal pain.

·         Joint damage.

·         Meningitis.

·         Liver or kidney problems.

·         Heart problems.

Treatment for tuberculosis revolves around antibiotics, in particular the following:

·         Isoniazid.

·         Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane).

·         Ethambutol (Myambutol).

·         Pyrazinamide.

As it turns out, though, tuberculosis has stayed eradication due to its ability to evolve drug-resistant strains. As a result, several new drugs have been developed to assist in the treatment of TB, such as:

·         Bedaquiline

·         Delamanid

·         PA-824

·         Linezolid

·         Sutezolid

Tuberculosis takes longer to treat than most bacterial infections – a course of antibiotics may last 6 to 9 months. Nonetheless, it is of the utmost importance to adhere to the treatment exactly as prescribed, even if the patient feels better or is no longer contagious. Skipping doses or stopping the treatment altogether may allow the bacteria to regroup and come back more dangerous and harder to treat than before. In addition to sticking to the course of antibiotics, a person with active TB should:

·         Remain home.

·         Ventilate his or her room.

·         Cover his or her mouth.

·         Wear a mask.


Related read:

World Tuberculosis Day 2014

- Learn the Signs and Symptoms of TB Disease

Diseases and Conditions Tuberculosis