Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that involves the lungs, but may spread to other organs.
You may have a TB infection but no active disease or symptoms. This means the TB bacteria remain inactive (dormant) in a small area of your lungs. This type of infection may be present for years and is called latent TB. With latent TB:
When you have active TB, you may feel sick or have a cough, lose weight, feel tired, or have a fever or night sweats. In this case:
Ask your doctor whether others with whom you work or live should be tested for TB.
TB germs die very slowly. You need to take several different pills at different times of the day for 6 months or longer. The only way to get rid of the germs is to take your TB medicines the way your doctor has instructed. This means taking all of your medicines every day.
If you do not take your TB medicines the right way, or stop taking the medicines early:
If your doctor is worried that you may not be taking all the medicines as directed, they may arrange to have someone meet with you every day or a few times a week to watch you take your TB drugs. This is called directly observed therapy.
Women who may be pregnant, who are pregnant, or who are breastfeeding should talk to their doctors before taking these medicines. If you are using birth control pills, ask your doctor if your TB medicines can make birth control pills not work as well.
Most people do not have very bad side effects from TB medicines. Problems to watch out for and tell your doctor about include:
Call your doctor if you have:
Tuberculosis - medicines; DOT; Directly observed therapy; TB - medicines
Ellner JJ. Tuberculosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 332.
Hopewell PC, Kato-Maeda M. Tuberculosis. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, et al., eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 34.
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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