Tuberculosis is a bacteria-caused disease that spreads when a patient with the condition talks, sneezes, or coughs. In most cases, the bacteria attack an individual’s lungs, but the disease can also cause damage to other portions of the body.
Patients with weak immune systems have a higher likelihood of developing tuberculosis. Multiple tests, including x-rays, blood tests, and skin tests, can determine if an individual has tuberculosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis can usually be cured through a combination of different medicines. It’s important for patients with symptoms of tuberculosis to be evaluated by a doctor, especially if they have reason to believe they’ve been exposed to TB bacteria.
1. Chronic Coughing
One of the most characteristic symptoms of tuberculosis in an individual’s lungs is chronic coughing. This cough generally lasts for at least three weeks.
Though coughing is a symptom of many non-severe conditions that resolve on their own, like the common cold, experts do recommend seeing a doctor if a cough lasts more than three weeks.
Chronic coughing can be related to bronchitis, cancer, bacterial infections, and a host of other issues, even if it is not tuberculosis. The cough might be dry and cause the throat to become sore. It might also be wet and produce phlegm.
A chronic cough doesn’t always indicate a severe disease. It can also indicate allergies or asthma. In TB patients, the cough is caused by the damage to the lungs. Some individuals with tuberculosis might cough up blood.
2. Chest Pain
Tuberculosis can lead to chest pain, which might be sharp or throbbing. This pain might get worse when an individual coughs or breathes. Patients might have unexplained fatigue and weakness.
There are two main presentations of tuberculosis. With latent TB infection, there are tuberculosis bacteria living in the body without causing symptoms.
Many individuals who breathe in TB bacteria can fight them off with their immune systems. However, when the bacteria do grow and begin attacking the lungs and other organ systems, the infection has progressed to tuberculosis disease.
Chest pain is an indicator a patient has developed TB disease. It’s common for latent tuberculosis infection to evolve into TB disease if a patient’s immune system is compromised and cannot fight off the initial bacteria.
3. Night Sweats and Chills
Individuals with tuberculosis might experience night sweats and chills. If patients begin experiencing drenching night sweats, it’s important to see a doctor.
Chills may make an individual feel like they have the flu. Night sweats can be a symptom of a number of other conditions as well. For an individual to experience a ‘true’ night sweat, the hot flash must be severe enough to drench their sleepwear and sheets.
Experts say it’s time to see a doctor if the night sweats are regular, cause sleep interruptions, are accompanied by a fever, or are accompanied by unusual symptoms like unexplained weight loss.
Night sweats are common with menopause. They can also be an indicator of certain cancers, hormone disorders, anxiety, and hypoglycemia.
Tuberculosis is just one of several types of infections that present with night sweats, which is why other symptoms and visits to a doctor are important for an accurate diagnosis.
4. Unexplained Weight Loss
Tuberculosis patients often experience severe and unexplained weight loss. Some studies indicate the severity of weight loss can affect the outcome of the disease.
Weight loss can have an immune-suppressing effect that makes it more difficult for the immune system to fight off the bacteria. There have been a few studies trying to establish why there’s such a strong link between weight loss and tuberculosis.
One study indicates it may be related to leptin, a hormone involved in cellular immunity and weight regulation. In another study, patients who received anti-TB treatment saw an increase in their leptin levels throughout the treatment cycle.
Another hypothesis is this kind of weight loss is a byproduct of the body’s immune response to the bacterial infection.
5. High Fever
A high fever is often associated with tuberculosis. Fevers can be caused by any viral or bacterial infection. Bacterial infections typically persist for longer than the fourteen-day period viruses last.
Fevers are also higher with bacterial infections like tuberculosis. Instead of improving, a bacteria-related fever will get worse as the illness progresses, whereas virus-related fevers tend to resolve on their own.
A study has been conducted regarding the length of time fevers persist after TB treatment starts. Fevers persisted for an average of 11.7 days after a patient had begun taking anti-tuberculosis medications.
High fevers can cause potential health risks, though it’s not true that fevers over 104 can cause brain damage. The fever itself doesn’t tend to be a concern as much as the underlying cause.