Could You Have TB?
By Robin Westen
For the most part routine testing and effective treatments have put a damper on tuberculosis (TB), a communicable disease spread through the air by speaking, coughing, or sneezing. But there are still cases reported every year in the United States, mostly among women and immigrants. The good news is that it’s treatable, but it may take up to a year to get it out of your body. The sooner it’s diagnosed the better. Here are the signs:
This is one of the earliest signs of infection. Night sweat may continue as long as you have the disease, or the nighttime discomfort may go away after your first treatment.
Fever While the body tries to fight TB’s mycobacterium, it fires up and creates a fever. This symptom is usually low-grade and controllable with fever-reducing medication. Fevers may end once treatment begins.
Weight Loss A loss of appetite leads to weight loss early in the course of tuberculosis. This can be treated by eating high-calorie, nutritious meals and snacks. If necessary, your doctor might prescribe medication to improve your appetite.
Fatigue You can experience excessive exhaustion while your body fights the infection. That’s why it’s a good idea during the day to take frequent rest periods.
Some people develop a cough early in the disease. It’s usually mild compared to the deep cough of someone who has an advanced, untreated case of TB. There’s usually no need to treat the cough, but the mouth and nose needs to be properly covered. Hands should also be washed immediately after coughing. While you're still contagious, your doctor may advise you to wear a mask around others.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."