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Health Tips for Living with Tuberculosis

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Angela Luz Tarriela · Updated Nov 13, 2022

Health Tips for Living with Tuberculosis

In the 18th and 19th century, pulmonary tuberculosis had widely spread across North America and Europe. After the discovery of antibiotics and the improved standards of living of the general population, this disease became treatable. In time, the spread of tuberculosis was controlled.  

But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis remains the world’s top infectious killer. About 10 million people contract tuberculosis every year. And an estimated 1.5 million people die from this condition. This is also the leading cause of death among people who are afflicted with the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

Pulmonary tuberculosis remains a worldwide problem, despite the many studies that support its cure and prevention. Considering the many people who are affected by this, the question remains: how is it living with pulmonary tuberculosis

What happens once someone is diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis?

What is pulmonary tuberculosis?

Pulmonary tuberculosis is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis. This is a type of bacteria that mainly attacks the lungs. It is a contagious and airborne infection. And it can also spread to other parts of the body, destroying tissue.

There are two types of pulmonary tuberculosis: latent tuberculosis and active tuberculosis. 

About a third of the world’s population could possibly be living with pulmonary tuberculosis, but does not develop symptoms.

This is called latent TB. This means that the bacteria is present in the body, but the immune system is able to control it. Though it is not contagious, latent TB may one day become active.

Only 10% to 20% of that population develops active TB.

This means the immune system has been compromised and the bacteria multiplies, making them sick. Symptoms of active TB can vary and may develop slowly.

Those living with pulmonary tuberculosis may experience the following:

  • Bad, chronic cough lasting for at least 2 weeks
  • Chest pain
  • Cough with blood
  • Breathlessness and shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills or night sweats

How to manage pulmonary tuberculosis

Once diagnosed through a radiologic test, skin test, sputum test or a blood test, corresponding treatment will follow. This depends on the type of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Those with latent TB may take medication to kill the bacteria. These can also prevent progression to active TB.

When diagnosed with active TB, the doctor will typically prescribe medication for 6 months, along with directly observed therapy (DOT).

Directly Observed Therapy (DOT)

DOT is a doctor-prescribed approach that ensures adherence and completion of treatment. Because if the prescribed doses are skipped, this can make the person living with pulmonary tuberculosis resistant to medicine. With DOT, a healthcare professional helps administer actual medication every day or several times a week.

For those living with pulmonary tuberculosis but are not on DOT, there is still a workaround for this. It is important to make a schedule and not miss a dose of medicine when undergoing treatment. Below are a few tips to help one remember to take the prescribed medication:

  • Take your prescribed medication at the same time every day.
  • Indicate taking the medication on a calendar.
  • Ask for help and allow someone to give reminders in taking the medicine every day.
  • Be organized and keep the medicine in a pill organizer and within reach. 

Possible Side Effects of TB Treatment

Within the treatment period of active TB, regular visits to the doctor is still important. This will help determine if the medication given is working well. The body’s reaction to medicine can vary from person-to-person living with pulmonary tuberculosis.

Here are a few of the known temporary side effects that are associated with the medication taken:

  • Loss of appetite wherein one can also experience an upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
  • Experiencing weakness, fatigue, or fever for more than three days.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Itchy skin with the presence of rashes or bruising
  • Yellowish discoloration of skin or eyes, and changes in eyesight or blurred vision
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Aside from consistently taking medication on time while living with pulmonary tuberculosis, it is also important to limit contact with others. Refrain from going to crowded places and wear a surgical mask around people, especially during the first weeks of treatment. Remember to always cover your mouth when coughing, sneezing, or even laughing. 

    living with pulmonary tuberculosis

    Preventing the spread of TB

    Pulmonary tuberculosis is airborne so one can get the infection by breathing the air by someone who has it.

    Coughing, sneezing, laughing, or even singing can expel airborne droplets. It takes several hours for germs to stay in the air.

    So, it is possible to get infected even if the person living with pulmonary tuberculosis has left the room. 

    It may not be easy to acquire pulmonary tuberculosis, but there are factors that could raise the risk of getting the infection.

    The following are high-risk circumstances:

    • Living with a friend, co-worker, or family member who has active TB
    • Travelling to countries where pulmonary tuberculosis is common. These countries include Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean
    • Working in a hospital or nursing home
    • Being a smoker
    • Having comorbidities such as Diabetes

    Being close to someone living with pulmonary tuberculosis may seem scary. But there are ways to protect oneself even if living in high-risk situations. Here are a few tips to protect oneself from acquiring the infection: 

    • Avoid extended close contact with the person living with pulmonary tuberculosis
    • Air out rooms regularly and refrain from staying in an infected person’s room
    • Wear a mask that can provide ample protection against TB

    Key Takeaways

    Getting diagnosed with active TB or even latent TB may cause a little worry. The treatment process takes a while, and there is the possibility of becoming immune to the medication for it. But if the medication is taken as prescribed, one can get treated. Remember that this disease is curable and preventable, and living with pulmonary tuberculosis is possible. 


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Angela Luz Tarriela · Updated Nov 13, 2022

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