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Tuberculosis

Coughing wih blood

11/22/2005

Question:

I cough blood 3 days ago and I was surprised and had an Chest Xray and found out that I have TB. I never had any symptoms and never get sick, I dont have cough, I eat a lot, I never loss my apetite, I never got a fever and never had any of the TB symptoms until I cough blood. Why is this happened? Just to give you info, I had an Xray 2 years ago and the Dr. told me that there was a scar on my lungs. My question is: Is the TB now active? Is it curable? I am really afraid about this personally.

Answer:

The great news is that TB is curable with very effective antibiotic drugs.  From what you mentioned including the scar on your chest x-ray (from 2 years ago) it is likely that you were exposed to someone with TB disease and infected some time in the past.  The scar showing on the x-rays resulted from your body’s immune system ‘walling’ off the bacteria in your lungs to prevent it from spreading.  Since you mention that you never got sick, your body was likely able to keep the bacteria contained in your lungs without you becoming noticeably sick. 

Without treatment unfortunately, the TB infection remained in your body and slowly multiplied until it overcame your immune system to finally cause the active TB disease you have now.  Again the great news is that TB is treatable with readily available drugs.  Just follow your doctor’s instructions and take the medicine as instructed and your treatment will likely be successful.

This document was prepared by Allan B. Chiunda, MPH, PhD student in Health Policy, Case Western Resereve University.

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Response by:

Catherine A Curley, MD, MS Catherine A Curley, MD, MS
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University