Learn About Pulmonary Tuberculosis

What is the definition of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that involves the lungs. It may spread to other organs.

Save information for later
Sign Up
What are the alternative names for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

TB; Tuberculosis - pulmonary; Mycobacterium - pulmonary

What are the causes of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Pulmonary TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M tuberculosis). TB is contagious. This means the bacteria are easily spread from an infected person to someone else. You can get TB by breathing in air droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person. The resulting lung infection is called primary TB.

Most people recover from primary TB infection without further evidence of the disease. The infection may stay inactive (dormant) for years. In some people, it becomes active again (reactivates).

Most people who develop symptoms of a TB infection first became infected in the past. In some cases, the disease becomes active within weeks after the primary infection.

The following people are at higher risk of active TB or reactivation of TB:

  • Older adults
  • Infants
  • People with weakened immune systems, for example due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, diabetes, or medicines that weaken the immune system

Your risk for catching TB increases if you:

  • Are around people who have TB
  • Live in crowded or unclean living conditions
  • Have poor nutrition

The following factors can increase the rate of TB infection in a population:

  • Increase in HIV infections
  • Increase in number of homeless people (poor environment and nutrition)
  • Presence of drug-resistant strains of TB
What are the symptoms of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

The primary stage of TB does not cause symptoms. When symptoms of pulmonary TB occur, they can include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Cough (usually with mucus)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Excessive sweating, particularly at night
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing
Not sure about your diagnosis?
Check Your Symptoms
What are the current treatments for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection with medicines that fight the TB bacteria. Active pulmonary TB is treated with a combination of many medicines (usually 4 medicines). The person takes the medicines until lab tests show which medicines work best.

You may need to take many different pills at different times of the day for 6 months or longer. It is very important that you take the pills the way your provider instructed.

When people do not take their TB medicines like they are supposed to, the infection can become much more difficult to treat. The TB bacteria can become resistant to treatment. This means the medicines no longer work.

If a person is not taking all the medicines as directed, a provider may need to watch the person take the prescribed medicines. This approach is called directly observed therapy. In this case, medicines may be given 2 or 3 times a week.

You may need to stay at home or be admitted to a hospital for 2 to 4 weeks to avoid spreading the disease to others until you are no longer contagious.

Your provider is required by law to report your TB illness to the local health department. Your health care team will ensure that you receive the best care.

Who are the top Pulmonary Tuberculosis Local Doctors?
Learn about our expert tiers
Learn more
What are the support groups for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you feel more in control.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Symptoms often improve in 2 to 3 weeks after starting treatment. A chest x-ray will not show this improvement until weeks or months later. Outlook is excellent if pulmonary TB is diagnosed early and effective treatment is started quickly.

What are the possible complications of Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Pulmonary TB can cause permanent lung damage if not treated early. It can also spread to other parts of the body.

Medicines used to treat TB may cause side effects, including:

  • Changes in vision
  • Orange- or brown-colored tears and urine
  • Rash
  • Liver inflammation

A vision test may be done before start of treatment so your provider can monitor any changes in the health of your eyes.

When should I contact a medical professional for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

Call your provider if:

  • You think or know you have been exposed to TB
  • You develop symptoms of TB
  • Your symptoms continue despite treatment
  • New symptoms develop
How do I prevent Pulmonary Tuberculosis?

TB is preventable, even in those who have been exposed to an infected person. Skin testing for TB is used in high risk populations or in people who may have been exposed to TB, such as health care workers.

People who have been exposed to TB should have a skin test as soon as possible and have a follow-up test at a later date, if the first test is negative.

A positive skin test means you have come into contact with the TB bacteria. It does not mean that you have active TB or are contagious. Talk to your provider about how to prevent getting TB.

Prompt treatment is very important in preventing the spread of TB from those who have active TB to those who have never been infected with TB.

Some countries with a high incidence of TB give people a vaccine called BCG to prevent TB. But, the effectiveness of this vaccine is limited and it is not used in the United States for the prevention of TB.

People who have had BCG may still be skin tested for TB. Discuss the test results (if positive) with your provider.

Tuberculosis in the kidney
Tuberculosis in the lung
Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays
Pulmonary nodule - front view chest x-ray
Pulmonary nodule, solitary - CT scan
Miliary tuberculosis
Tuberculosis of the lungs
Erythema nodosum associated with sarcoidosis
Respiratory system
Tuberculin skin test
What are the latest Pulmonary Tuberculosis Clinical Trials?
A Phase 1, Drug-Drug Interaction Study to Evaluate the Safety, Tolerability, and the Induction Potential of TBAJ-876 on CYP3A4 and P-glycoprotein and the Inhibition Potential of TBAJ-876 on P-glycoprotein in Healthy Adult Subjects

Summary: A Phase 1, Drug-Drug Interaction Study to Evaluate the Safety, Tolerability, and the Induction Potential of TBAJ-876 on CYP3A4 and P-glycoprotein and the Inhibition Potential of TBAJ-876 on P-glycoprotein in Healthy Adult Subjects

Match to trials
Find the right clinical trials for you in under a minute
Get started
Evaluation of the Feasibility, Accuracy, and Effect of a Rapid Point-of-Care Serological Triage Test for Active TB (SeroSelectTB) in High Burden, HIV-endemic African Settings: a Multi-centre, Parallel-group, Randomised, Controlled Trial

Summary: The performance of a new triage test for active tuberculosis (TB), SeroSelectTB, will be qualified in multi-centre randomised controlled trials at health-posts in South Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Cost effectiveness evaluations will be conducted to support a value proposition to stakeholders and regulatory authorities, and to support commercialization requirements. Consenting adults will provid...

What are the Latest Advances for Pulmonary Tuberculosis?
Effects of zinc and vitamin A supplementation on prognostic markers and treatment outcomes of adults with pulmonary tuberculosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Case Report: Community-Acquired Burkholderia cepacia Pneumonia of a Patient with Pulmonary Tuberculosis.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Impact of dietary counselling on the nutritional status and quality of life among pulmonary tuberculosis patients - A randomized control trial.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: December 24, 2020
Published 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, Boston, MA.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Fitzgerald DW, Sterling TR, Haas DW. Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 249.

Hauk L. Tuberculosis: guidelines for diagnosis from the ATS, IDSA, and CDC. Am Fam Physician. 2018;97(1):56-58. PMID: 29365230 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29365230.

Wallace WAH. Respiratory tract. In: Cross SS, ed. Underwood's Pathology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 14.