Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB)- Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that majorly affects the lungs but can attack the other body parts as well. Bacteria can spread to other body parts like the digestive and urogenital tracts, bones, joints, nervous system, lymph nodes and skin. Caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB is an air-borne disease. It is mainly spread by person to person and hence is a contagious disease. TB is a deadly disease, and the bacteria harm the lungs, thereby making lungs difficult to function.

As per World Health organisation, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. In 2017, 10 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.6 million died from the disease. The gravity of this disease is so grave that two people die of TB every three minutes in India. Not only this, the WHO also states that an estimated 54 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2017.

What causes Tuberculosis?

TB is caused by a bacterium that spreads from one person to another person; this happens when a person who has TB coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, or laughs in an open space. Hence, you are much more likely to contract TB from someone you live or work with. The germs grow slowly; it spreads among co-workers, friends, and family members.

Symptoms of TB: 

As mentioned earlier the germs grow slowly in your body and at times your immune system can prevent you from becoming sick. And hence TB is divided into two types: Latent TB and Active TB, and the symptoms for both differ variably.

Latent TB:

In this kind of TB, one has TB infection, but the bacteria remains in your body in an inactive state; hence there are no symptoms to it. It is also known as inactive TB since it isn’t contagious. However, at times, it can turn into active Tb hence treatment for this quite essential too.

Active TB:

Active TB makes you fall sick and is contagious too. Signs and symptoms of active TB are: Coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite.

TB may also affect other parts of your body, and when that happens, the symptoms vary. If TB effects your spine then that may give you back pain, and TB in your kidneys might cause blood in your urine. If you have any of these symptoms, then you should see your doctor right away.

Risk Factors of TB:

People with low immune systems are more prone to get TB. The risk of developing active TB increases if your immune system is weak. If a person is suffering from HIV, the chances of getting TB also increase as HIV suppresses the immune system. Apart from this, people who consume tobacco on regular basis are also prone to have active TB. Around 8 per cent of TB cases worldwide are related to smoking. People suffering from diabetes, malnutrition and kidney disease are also prone to active TB. Travelling to countries where TB is more common also increases the level of contracting TB.

Who is prone to Tuberculosis?

TB is a contagious disease but then here are some people who are at high risk of contracting TB. People exposed to patients suffering from active pulmonary TB, health care workers who serve patients with TB, people in or working in prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters, drug treatment facilities, and healthcare facilities, people living in areas which have high rates of TB, infants, and young children and elderly people who have weak immune systems, people who already have suffered from TB before, patients who have undergone any form of transplant have the chances of TB.

Treatments for tuberculosis 

Tb is cured with right medication and an ample amount of rest. TB patients need to be administered correctly and should be given right amount dosage. Antibiotic drugs for TB depends on the age, health, and type of TB. People with latent TB just need one type of antibiotic, whereas, people with active TB require more than one type of antibiotic drugs.  Medication for TB is taken for a long time. Hence, it is advised to finish the course by taking the antibiotics for 6 to 9 months. Any bacteria that may have survived in the body might become resistant to the medication and may hamper the health. Hence completing the medication is quite essential.

Like every other antibiotic, TB medicines have their own side effects. Side effects are dark urine, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting and jaundice.  But side effects are quite rare and hence if anything as such occurs, then it should be reported to a doctor. Once you start feeling better after a few weeks of treatment you have to visit the doctor; since only a doctor has final say on your health. If you have recovered fully, then you may be able to go back to your daily routine real soon. Between 2000 and 2017, an estimated 54 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment.

Patients should receive their drugs in front of DOTS ( Directly Observed Therapy Short Term) agent. DOTS agents are usually a volunteer from a patient’s family or acquaintances. The agent does not say which drugs should be taken but monitors the patient while they take the prescribed drugs. The patient has to take the medication in front of DOTS.


If left untreated, TB can really prove to be deadly. TB mostly affects the lungs, but at times it can also spread through the blood in other parts of the body and complicate the things. It can lead to joint damage, heart disorder, spinal pain, liver or kidney damage, to name a few. Hence if you get the symptoms, it’s always advisable to go to the doctor.

Prevention from Tuberculosis

A few general measures should be taken to prevent the spread of TB. If you have TB, it is better to stay at home in isolation for a while. This will minimise the risk of germs from reaching anyone else. Apart from this, TB patients should also wear a mask if they go out, cover their mouth while coughing or sneezing so that the bacteria doesn’t spread to anyone else. TB vaccination is also an option to prevent yourself from getting TB, but in some countries like the U.S., it is not recommended for adults to get a vaccination, since it is not effective to them. Hence, TB vaccines are given to children to vaccinate them against the disease. However, the most important thing is to finish the entire courses of medication when they are prescribed.

Global Impact of Tuberculosis

TB is one such disease that occurs almost everywhere in the world. Data from World Health organisation suggest that in 2017, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions, with 62 per cent of new cases, followed by the African region, with 25 per cent of new cases. Not only this, but World Health organisation also states that the eight countries that accounted for two-thirds of the new TB cases and they are: India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.


Hence, the key takeaway here is that TB is contagious, but if proper care and medication are taken then the disease can be cured easily. One needs to follow a healthy diet, and take rest when diagnosed with TB. Many government schemes have been launched by the government for below poverty line people. Awareness of such schemes is also quite essential so that everyone gets the treatment done on time.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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