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Tuberculosis (TB) - When A Person Can Develop It?

Written and reviewed by
MD, MBBS
Pulmonologist, Delhi  •  14 years experience
Tuberculosis (TB) - When A Person Can Develop It?

Tuberculosis or TB as it is commonly known in medical circles is a bacterial infection commonly affecting the lungs. While there are some countries in the world, where TB is more common, anybody can develop TB if they are not very healthy. The TB bacteria spreads through the air. While some people's immune system would be able to fight the disease back; some people who have risk factors, the disease may continue to develop and present with symptoms.

So, a person can develop TB in two circumstances:

  1. Exposure to TB
    • Visited a country where TB is very common
    • Spent time with a person who is infected with TB
    • Exposure to crowded places like a market or a healthcare facility where TB virus is present
  2. Weakened immune system
    • Be HIV infected
    • Weak immune system due to long-term use of steroids
    • Chronic diseases like diabetes, malnutrition, end-stage kidney or liver disease, cancer, etc.
    • Extremes of age (children whose immune system is not fully developed, elderly whose immunity is weakened)
    • Chronic smoker, IV drug abuse, and/or alcohol user
    • Repeatedly exposed to TB bacteria in the last two years
    • Had TB bacteria, but not identified or treated
    • Drug therapy like chemotherapy, long-term use of steroids, auto-immune disease treatments, etc.

Signs and symptoms of TB:

If you are at risk, it is also suggested that you know the early warning signs and symptoms of TB. TB most commonly affects the lungs and is known as pulmonary tuberculosis. Watching out for these helps in early diagnosis which can both help arrest the condition in the early stages and improve prognosis.

  1. A persistent cough which lasts for more than 3 weeks
  2. Pain in the chest worsened with coughing
  3. Presence of blood in the sputum
  4. Generalized and extreme weakness or fatigue
  5. Unexplained weight loss
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Fever and chills
  8. Profuse sweating at night

If a person has TB bacteria in the system but does not feel sick and does not have the above systems, then it means that the person is not actively infected. This person also cannot spread the disease to another person. However, when immunity is weak, this can develop into an infection. In a country like India where tuberculosis is quite prevalent, it is best to get yourself screened for active tuberculosis infection if you display any such symptoms.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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