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TB Without Symptoms: What to Know About Latent Tuberculosis

TB Without Symptoms: What to Know About Latent Tuberculosis

A person you spent a lot of time with in the past months informed you that they’ve been diagnosed with tuberculosis. They advised you to consult a doctor, just in case you contracted it, too. Oddly enough, you feel just fine. No cough, no shortness of breath, and certainly no fever. The people you live with are also doing great. Does that mean you dodged TB? Experts say you may have latent tuberculosis. Learn more about it here.

What is Latent Tuberculosis?

Latent tuberculosis happens when the bacteria that cause TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, live in the body but are inactive because the immune system can fight them off. In other words, if you have latent TB infection, you will not develop any symptoms and you won’t spread the infection to others.

However, latent TB might turn into tuberculosis disease when the person’s immune system weakens. TB disease is the kind that can infect others and result in symptoms such as fever, long-term cough, and shortness of breath.

When to Consult a Doctor

According to reports, the majority of people who contract latent tuberculosis never develop TB disease. However, since the possibility is still there, talking to your doctor should remain a priority if you came in close contact with people who had TB disease.

Contact a healthcare provider, too, if you:

  • Recently visited an area with a high rate of TB.
  • Are at a high risk of developing tuberculosis disease; this could mean you have HIV, end-stage renal disease, or diabetes that requires insulin.
  • Work in a place where some people may have TB disease, like nursing homes, prisons, etc.

latent tuberculosis

Usually, latent TB results in normal chest x-ray and sputum test, but the skin and blood tests will indicate TB infection.

Unless what you have is multidrug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant TB, the doctor will most probably give you antibiotics to prevent the occurrence of tuberculosis disease.

Home Care for Latent Tuberculosis

After receiving instructions from your doctor, keep the following home care tips in mind:

Take your medicines as prescribed

The first tip is for you to take your medications as advised.

To reduce the risk of having TB disease in the future, you need to take several medicines, mostly antibiotics, for months. If you forget to take one dose, take it as soon as possible – as long as it’s on the same day. Should a day have passed, take the next scheduled dose, but don’t forget to inform your doctor or healthcare worker so they can make adjustments.

If side effects, like nausea and vomiting, make it hard for you to follow your treatment regimen, talk to your physician about taking the medicines with meals.

Avoid drinking alcohol

While you’re undergoing treatment, avoid drinking alcohol. They may interact with the medications and lead to some side effects.

Take note of unexpected side effects

Like mentioned, people with latent tuberculosis may experience side effects while taking their prescribed drugs. You may observe nausea and vomiting, fever, and even rashes.

However, if you notice symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes, and having dark brown urine, stop taking your medications and contact your doctor right away.

Watch Out for Warning Signs

During treatment, watch out for signs that you need to go back to the doctor. These warning signs include:

  • Losing weight
  • Having night sweats
  • Not getting better as expected

Also, seek medical help right away if you developed:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Worse or new diarrhea
  • Worse or new cough

Key Takeaways

Latent tuberculosis occurs when the TB bacteria live in your body but don’t make you sick. While many people who contract latent TB never develop tuberculosis disease in their life, the possibility is still there. For this reason, it’s crucial to get tested if you came in close contact with someone who had an active infection. If you test positive for latent tuberculosis, receiving several medicines for a few months may prevent an active TB infection.

Learn more about Tuberculosis here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Latent TB Infection and TB Disease
https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/tbinfectiondisease.htm
Accessed April 19, 2021

Latent tuberculosis infection Updated and consolidated guidelines for programmatic management
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260233/9789241550239-eng.pdf;jsessionid=7124BC91DC9B3F5ADC357BAB05E9118E?sequence=1
Accessed April 19, 2021

Treatment Regimens for Latent TB Infection (LTBI)
https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/treatment/ltbi.htm
Accessed April 19, 2021

You Can Beat TB: Latent TB Infection(LTBI) – Information For Patients With Latent TB Infection
https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/3742/
Accessed April 19, 2021

Tuberculosis (Latent TB): Care Instructions

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abq2468
Accessed April 19, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 22
Fact Checked by Dr. Jeannette Daquinag
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