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Tuberculosis

Pulmonary TB Scarring

02/03/2009

Question:

I work in a telephone company in the Philippines. I believe I acquired PTB from using drinking glass when I was 28 years old. I was already working then. After series of x-rays, sputum, bronchoscopy the doctors declared it "scarring" only, telling me that was a "non-alarming" case. From then on, yearly the scarring is detected. I would like to ask if it is still a threat to my health? How can I help myself cure this thing if it is?

Answer:

It is difficult to answer your question without knowing more about the case. I can tell you the following things:

1. Pulmonary tuberculosis is not acquired from a drinking glass. It is an airborne infection and can only be transmitted by breathing a tuberculosis bacteria that has been coughed into the air by a person who is sick with the disease.

2. After infection with tuberculosis some persons will heal the infection and have scarring on their chest x rays. to evaluate whether there is active infection we look at sputum or bronchoscopy specimens. If these are negative then it is reasonable to believe that the tuberculosis infection is not active. THere is a small risk of the tuberculosis infection waking up in the future (5-10%). Tuberculosis medication can be given to prevent this from occurring, if the scarring is felt to be due to previous tuberculosis exposure/infection. Your physicians would have to make that determination.

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Go to the Tuberculosis health topic, where you can:

Response by:

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