Tuberculosis is a long-term infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other organs such as the bones, liver and kidneys. It is spread from person to person through airborne inhalation. According to The Foundation for Better Health Care, it is the leading cause of death among infectious diseases 1. There is a latent form and an active form, and symptoms are only evident when the disease is in its active form.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Cough and Chest Pain
One of the classic symptom experienced with tuberculosis is persistent cough. This develops because of the location of tuberculosis initially in the lungs 1. Since cough can be attributed to other common ailments such as smoking or asthma, it is easy to not notice this symptom. Initially, this cough is dry, and ongoing for weeks and months. Sometimes this cough comes with blood-filled sputum, as tuberculosis damages the tissue lining of the lungs. There is usually a sharp, intense chest pain felt in the early stages of tuberculosis, which is also made worse by coughing. As more of the lung tissues are damaged, shortness of breath could occur.
- One of the classic symptom experienced with tuberculosis is persistent cough.
- Sometimes this cough comes with blood-filled sputum, as tuberculosis damages the tissue lining of the lungs.
Fever and Night Sweats
First Signs of Tuberculosis
Fever is the body's immune system defense mechanism to fight any infection. With tuberculosis, low fever is a common symptom. The body temperature rises in response, as a mode of fighting off the infection. As the body attempts to bring its temperature back to normal, any excess heat is removed from the body through intense sweating. Since this usually occurs at night, this symptom is known as night sweats. These night sweats can leave a person feeling very weak and tired.
- Fever is the body's immune system defense mechanism to fight any infection.
- As the body attempts to bring its temperature back to normal, any excess heat is removed from the body through intense sweating.
Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
The culmination of cough, weakness and pain cause a loss of appetite to develop, which can quickly lead to unintentional weight loss. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria also releases chemical signals which cause the body to respond by chronic weight loss. This is a classic symptom seen in early and advanced stages of active tuberculosis 1.
First Signs of Tuberculosis
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Causes of Nausea, Vomiting & Cough
- The Foundation for Better Health Care: Tuberculosis/ Early Symptoms of Tuberculosis
- Centers for Disease Control. Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. Tuberculosis (TB). https://www.cdc.gov/tb/?404;https://www.cdc.gov:443/tb/default
- World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. http://www.who.int/tb/en/
- Talwar A, Tsang CA, Price SF, et al. Tuberculosis — United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:257–262. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6811a2
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TB Risk Factors. Updated March 18, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Testing for TB Infection. Updated April 14, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treatment for TB Disease. Updated April 5, 2016.
- American Lung Association. Living With Tuberculosis. Updated October 15, 2019.
- Centers for Disease Control. Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. Tuberculosis (TB).
- Mims CA, et al. Medical Microbiology. 1993. Mosby-Year Book Europe Limited. London.
- Salyers AA and Whitt DD. Bacterial Pathogenesis: A Molecular Approach. 1994. American Society for Microbiology. Washington, D.C.
- World Health Organization. Tuberculosis.
Helen Nnama has six years of writing experience. She is a health contributor to TBR Journal, editor of fertility confidential manuals, published poet, and a greeting card writer. She has a B.S. in microbiology, an M.S. in epidemiology, and is an M.D. candidate. A former state HIV/AIDS epidemiologist and NIA fellow at Johns Hopkins, she has research experience with published work.