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Signs and Symptoms

A TB infection that has been "walled-off" by the body’s immune system (latent) does not cause any symptoms. Someone may have a latent TB infection for years without knowing it. It is usually diagnosed when a person has a positive TB screening test (PPD skin test or IGRA test).

The symptoms of active TB depend on what part(s) of the body are involved. The classic symptoms tend to be pulmonary (TB in the lungs) and include:

  • Chronic cough, sometimes with bloody sputum
  • Fever, chills
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain

When a TB infection occurs outside of the lungs (extrapulmonary disease), symptoms can vary depending on the site that is infected. It may cause few noticeable symptoms or a wide range, including:

  • Back pain and paralysis (spinal TB)
  • Weakness due to anemia (TB in the bone marrow)
  • Joint pain
  • Pain associated with the reproductive system or urinary tract and possibly resulting in infertility
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever and shortness of breath (TB in the pericardium or miliary TB, multiple small sites of TB often in many organs)
  • Altered mental state, headache, and coma (TB in the brain and/or central nervous system, meningitis)

All of these symptoms may also be seen in a variety of other conditions. A diagnosis of active tuberculosis depends on the positive identification of M. tuberculosis in the body fluids or tissues.

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