Tuberculosis

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Signs and symptoms

Latent TB infection does not cause any symptoms. Someone may have latent TB infection for years without knowing it. The symptoms of active tuberculosis depend on what part(s) of the body are involved. The most common symptoms tend to be pulmonary (TB in the lungs) and include chronic cough, haemoptysis (coughing up sputum containing blood), fever, night sweats and weight loss.

If the TB is extrapulmonary (outside of the lungs), it may cause few noticeable symptoms or a wide range including:

  • Back pain and paralysis (spinal TB)
  • Pain associated with reproductive system or urinary tract, possibly resulting in infertility
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Altered mental state, headache and, in extreme cases, coma (TB in the brain and/or central nervous system)
  • Disseminated/miliary TB (ie spread throughout the whole body) can cause a range of the above symptoms

All of these symptoms may also be seen in a variety of other conditions. A definitive diagnosis of active tuberculosis depends on the positive identification of Mycobacterium tuberculosis organism in the body fluids or tissues. In some cases of active TB however, it is not possible to detect the organism in the body and the diagnosis is made using a combination of clinical symptoms and signs, radiology and other pathology tests.

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