Symptoms of TB according to the type of TB

Common TB symptoms

The symptoms of active TB are very variable and depend on which part of the body has been infected, that is which type of TB it is. It is very difficult to diagnose TB via the symptoms only, because the symptoms are not usually exclusive to TB. To diagnose TB it is always necessary to do at least one TB test.

General symptoms of active TB disease include weakness or feeling very tired, losing weight without trying, lack of appetite, chills, fever (a high temperature of 38C or above) and night sweats.1

Symptoms of pulmonary TB

Pulmonary TB is TB in the lungs. The specific symptoms of pulmonary TB are having a bad cough that lasts longer than three weeks, having pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or phlegm from deep inside the lungs.2

Symptoms of extrapulmonary TB

Extrapulmonary TB, which is also known as disseminated or miliary TB, refers to all the different types of TB other than pulmonary TB.3 Generally it is the types of TB that do not affect the lungs, the main exception to this being the type of extrapulmonary TB known as Pleural TB.

The general symptoms of extrapulmonary TB are the same as for pulmonary TB, but there can then be specific symptoms relating to the particular site or sites in the body that are infected.

Symptoms of lymph node TB

Lymphadenitis is the inflammation and/or enlargement of a lymph node and is a common response to a variety of infections particularly in children.4 The only symptoms of TB lymphadenitis may be painless slowly enlarging lymph nodes, as there are often no general TB symptoms. The swollen lymph nodes are often in the neck area, although they can be in the groin.

TB infection of the lymph nodes in the neck is sometimes referred to by the name Scrofula, or as TB adenitis.5

Symptoms of skeletal (bone and joint) TB

The most common initial symptom of bone TB is pain, but it depends on the bone or joint that is affected. There may also be curving of the affected bone or joint, as well as loss of movement in the affected bone or joint. The affected bone may also be weakened and may fracture easily.6

Spinal TB is also known as TB Spondylitis or Pott Disease. The symptoms of Pott disease depend on the stage of disease, and the affected site, but back pain is the earliest and most common symptom.7

Symptoms of TB meningitis

TB meningitis does not start with classic meningitis symptoms. It begins with vague, general symptoms of aches and pains, a fever, and generally feeling unwell. This lasts for anywhere from about 2 to 8 weeks. Only then do the more obvious symptoms like vomiting, severe headache, a dislike of lights, neck stiffness and seizures occur.8

Gastrointestinal or Abdominal TB & its symptoms

The symptoms of abdominal TB can be abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bleeding from the anus or rectum. As with a number of the other types of TB, the symptoms will depend on the exact area that is affected.9

Where next?

Get some more TB facts, or learn about TB treatment or about TB in South Africa.

References

  1. "Get the Facts About TB Disease", CDC www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/pamphlets/default.htm
  2. "Get the Facts About TB Disease", CDC www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/pamphlets/default.htm
  3. "Disseminated tuberculosis - Overview", University of Maryland Medical Center www.umm.edu/ency/article
  4. "Lymphadenitis", Medscape http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/960858-overview
  5. "Scrofula", Medline Plus www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/
  6. "Tuberculosis (TB) - Symptoms", NHS choices http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Tuberculosis/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
  7. "Pott Disease", Medscape http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/226141-overview
  8. "TB Meningitis", Meningitis Research Foundation www.meningitis.org/disease-info/types-causes/tb-meningitis
  9. "Tuberculosis (TB) - Symptoms", NHS choices http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Tuberculosis/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

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