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What can I Expect After a Tuberculosis Diagnosis?

Nicole Madison
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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After tuberculosis diagnosis, a person will most likely need treatment. If he has been diagnosed but does not have symptoms, his treatment may be preventative in nature. If, on the other hand, his case is active, he will typically be treated with drugs that kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. In some cases, a person may also be hospitalized to keep him from spreading the bacteria to others.

Following an active tuberculosis diagnosis, most doctors will recommend treatment. Tuberculosis is often treated with a regimen of drugs capable of killing the bacteria. For example, active cases are often treated with the following drugs: pyrazinamide, isoniazid, ethambutol, and rifampin. Sometimes, however, other drugs are recommended for cases in which the patient is resistant to one or more of the drugs typically used for treating tuberculosis.

If a person has been infected with tuberculosis but does not have an active case of the disease, a doctor may suggest preventative treatment. This type of treatment works to kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and prevent the active form of the disease from developing. For example, a doctor may recommend nine months of treatment with a drug called isoniazid to prevent an active tuberculosis infection.

Exposure to tuberculosis doesn’t necessarily mean a person will have an active case of tuberculosis. Often, the body isolates the infected cells and keeps the bacteria that cause it at bay. In some cases, the body may keep these cells isolated for years at a time. In fact, the body can sometimes fight the bacteria off and heal on its own. Those with weakened immune systems because of human immunodeficiency virus or other diseases may be more likely to develop an active case of tuberculosis. Even malnutrition and normal aging can put a person at increased risk.

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease. It can be transmitted from person to person, even without any physical contact. The bacteria that cause the disease are sent into the air in tiny droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People may then inhale these droplets and become infected.

Since tuberculosis is contagious, some people may need to be hospitalized and isolated after tuberculosis diagnosis. Such hospitalization allows the patient to be treated and monitored while also protecting the general public from exposure. After about two weeks of treatment, a person usually isn’t contagious anymore and can be released from the hospital. In some places, a person can be forced into a hospital or other type of care environment if he refuses treatment after tuberculosis diagnosis.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Discussion Comments
By croydon — On Nov 01, 2014

@clintflint - It's a tough call though, because it's a very real possibility that tuberculosis treatments could become ineffective if the medications aren't used properly. And when you've got huge populations with the disease it's impossible to monitor whether or not they are all going to be taking the medications properly. If we lose our ability to get rid of tuberculosis entirely, then everyone is going to suffer.

By clintflint — On Oct 31, 2014

@pleonasm - It's not just that it spreads outside of human influence. It's also in the way the cure is being managed. I spent some time with an aid agency in a place where TB was common and, while I didn't get it myself, several other workers did. They were not permitted to use the "good drugs" until they left the country, because there was too much chance that tuberculosis bacteria could become immune to them. Instead, they had to take the medications that local people used, which took seven months to work, if you took them regularly, and refrained from any fish, alcohol, cheese, chocolate and various other foods at the same time and if you happened to have a strain of TB that wasn't already immune.

Many of my co-workers opted not to have a tuberculosis test until they went home, so they could take the better drugs that only took three months to work.

But the people who live in that country never have that option.

By pleonasm — On Oct 30, 2014

Tuberculosis is very often inactive for many years before it shows itself, if it shows itself at all and it's not contagious when it's inactive. It's actually not even that contagious when it's active. People don't usually get it from other people (although it is possible if they are exposed repeatedly and over a long period to someone with active TB) they get it from other sources of contamination, like milk from infected cattle.

Unfortunately, this is why it's so difficult to get rid of it even though we've got a definitive cure and have had for a while. It is present in many different wild animals, which can spread it to cattle, which can spread it to humans. This isn't as much of a problem in places where cattle are routinely tested and the milk is pasteurized, but in places where that doesn't happen tuberculosis is still running rampant.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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