How Tuberculosis (TB) Is Tested and Diagnosed

How Tuberculosis (TB) Is Tested and Diagnosed

Dec 01, 2020

A TB infection is an airborne bacterial disease that usually affects the lungs. It is transmitted when an infected person releases his fluids in the air through sneezing, speaking, coughing and singing.

However, not everyone who gets tuberculosis gets sick. This type of TB is known as latent tuberculosis. Infected people do not show any symptoms and can’t infect other people. Due to medications or other health complications that might weaken the immune system, latent TB may develop to active TB.

Active Tuberculosis is a condition where the bacteria causing tuberculosis attack the lungs and other organs of your body. It is accompanied by chest pains, body weakness, coughs, weight loss, coughs, fever, phlegm chills and sweating throughout the night.

Types of Tuberculosis Test

Various tuberculosis tests will be done to determine if you have tuberculosis or not. After a thorough discussion about your medical history, our specialists in Roanoke, VA, will guide you on what tests you will require and why you need them.

Below are some of the tests done to determine if you have TB.

Blood Test

A blood sample is taken from your arm then collected into a vial or test tube. Your doctor will then look at your immune system cells from your blood which will determine if you have tuberculosis.

Skin Test

It is also known as the purified protein derivative skin test. Two appointments are needed for this type of test. After wiping your skin, a small amount of protein is injected under the top layer of your skin. You will then be given an appointment to see the doctor again after 2 to 3 days. If there is a welt on your skin, you could be positive of the TB infection.

Children, pregnant women, people with HIV and those who have had a BCG shot are all candidates of skin test. However, if you had a severe reaction to a skin test before, then you should not have this test.

Sputum Test

You will be requested to cough. The doctor will then look at your phlegm under a microscope to check for any tuberculosis germs. A positive test will prove the presence of tuberculosis in your lungs and throat. This test is also used to show the extent of the infection in your body.

Chest X-ray

This will be taken to check for any signs of damage in your lungs or other organs that may have been affected by tuberculosis.

Diagnosis of Tuberculosis

If your TB test turns positive, there will be a need for further detailed tests that will be used to rule out if you have latent or active tuberculosis. If you have the bacteria without the disease, you will be diagnosed with latent TB.

The method of treatment used for latent TB will depend on your chances of developing active tuberculosis. If you have active tuberculosis, you will be required to take multiple medications for a period of six to nine months.

The whole dosage prescribed must be taken to its completion to avoid recurring of the disease. Discuss with your doctor what side effects you might experience and the course of action that you will need to take.

When Should You Do the Test

You will be required to do the test if you:

  • Have had close contact with a person infected with tuberculosis for a prolonged time
  • Are experiencing weight loss, fever, traces of blood and sputum in your coughs, chills and chest pains
  • Have HIV or any health complications such as diabetes, cancer or malnourishment, which will weaken your immune system.

TB Prevention Methods

If you are at risk of getting the infection, you will be administered with a BCG vaccine. One can also prevent the spread of TB to other people by staying away from crowded places until when you are through with your medications and declared TB free.

Open doors and windows in your home, work and school spaces to allow efficient circulation of oxygen in and out.

When sneezing or coughing always cover your mouth and carefully dispose of the tissues or paper towels used in a sealed plastic bag.

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