Tuberculosis, Part 1: A Brief Overview of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that is spread by a germ called mycobacterium tuberculosis. This germ once ingested or inhaled by the human body can infect various parts of the body causing severe harm. The most common area of the body that TB affects is the lungs. This is known as pulmonary tuberculosis.

How is pulmonary tuberculosis contracted?

TB is contracted when someone who has TB and is not receiving the proper treatment coughs sneezes or spits into the air. This releases the germ into the air thus making it possible for someone else to inhale it. Therefore TB spreads easily in poor, overcrowded areas.

Who can get pulmonary tuberculosis?

TB does not discriminate as anyone can get it. However people who have poor immune systems: do not eat healthy foods, people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, people who smoke, people who have HIV or AIDS.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis?

• Coughing for more than two weeks

• Coughing up blood

• Loss of appetite

• Lethargy

• Night sweats

• Breathlessness

• Weight loss

• Chest pains

• Fever

How is pulmonary tuberculosis diagnosed?

There are three common ways in which TB can be diagnosed:

• The sputum test involves coughing up ones mucous (sputum) into two separate jars. This is then sent to a

laboratory. Where it will be analysed for the TB bacteria.

• The skin test is also known as the mantoux test. This test involves having a minute amount of purified TB

bacteria injected under the skin. If a red swelling occurs after 2-3 days then that is a positive sign for TB


• Chest x-rays are done to see whether the lungs have any hardening or scarring present.

How is pulmonary tuberculosis treated?

A course of TB medication must be taken once every day for 6 months. This course of medication is only taken by individuals who have contracted the disease for the first time. If the course of TB medication is not completed then it is highly likely that the individual will contracted TB again. However instead of a 6 month course of TB medication the individual will have to have to take TB medication for 8 months or longer.

What are there any side-effects of the TB medication?

• Loss of appetite

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Joint pain

• Pink urine

• Skin rashes

These side-effects are not experience by every individual taking TB medication. But if these side-effects are experienced most can be effectively treated.


Pulmonary tuberculosis is a treatable disease if caught early. It does not discriminate, thus anyone, especially individuals with compromised immune systems should adopt healthy lifestyles to protect themselves against TB infection.