Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can turn fatal if tuberculosis symptoms are not recognized early enough to administer effective treatment. For this reason, it is absolutely crucial for you to learn how to identify tuberculosis symptoms.
There are two variants of the disease – pulmonary tuberculosis and extra pulmonary tuberculosis. The first variant of the condition affects the lungs, while the second can affect any organ of the body. Accordingly, the tuberculosis symptoms vary between the two.
Tuberculosis Symptoms – Five Signs That Could Indicate A TB Infection
A Persistent Cough
A cough that persists for three weeks or more, often accompanied by blood in the sputum and pain in the chest, is one of the symptoms of active pulmonary TB.
When the M. tuberculosis bacteria are passed to an healthy individual through respiratory droplets expelled by an infected individual, they usually infect the lungs. If the receiver’s immune system can’t contain these bacteria, they multiply rapidly in his lungs, which then become the primary site of infection. This form of TB is called pulmonary TB. Consequently, a racking cough that continues for three weeks or more is the first sign of active TB.
This prolonged cough is sometimes accompanied by blood in the sputum (phlegm). The sputum is yellow or green at first and may gradually become bloody. The infected person may also experience pain in the chest while coughing or even while breathing.
Fever, With Chills And Nocturnal Sweating
Persistent presence of M. tuberculosis in the body causes the immune system to continuously combat the bacteria. In this constant fight, there is an over-production of certain substances called cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1, by the immune system. This excess production of cytokines ends up causing fever and chills in the patient.
Excessive sweating, especially at night, is also typical of the fever seen in TB. Such nocturnal sweating is caused due to the irregular bursts in the production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol levels are seen to be very high in the evenings, especially between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.
Malaise And Loss Of Appetite
Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting are also common signs of pulmonary TB. They lead to a general feeling of exhaustion, weakness, and malaise in the person with TB.
Unintentional Weight Loss
Because of the lack of appetite, nausea, and malaise experienced by the infected person, he ends up losing weight. In many cases, this unintentional weight loss can be quite dramatic.
Symptoms Of Extra Pulmonary TB
Besides the lungs, the tuberculosis bacteria can also infect other organs if not halted by the immune system. When the infection spreads to other organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, spine, brain, bones, and the kidneys, the tuberculosis symptoms usually vary depending on the organ affected.
For example, TB in the brain and the spine causes a persistent headache and subtle changes in the nervous system. In the case of skeletal TB, pain in the back, paralysis of the lower limbs, and tuberculous arthritis are the tuberculosis symptoms that are observed. TB in the kidneys leads to frequent urination and pain in the sides of the hips, while TB in the gastrointestinal tract causes non-healing ulcers in the mouth and the anus, as well as abdominal pain and diarrhea.
As tuberculosis symptoms have high chances of turning fatal when left ignored and untreated, it is best to consult a doctor at the first sign of the symptoms and seek immediate tuberculosis treatment.