Early Symptoms of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a long-term infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other organs such as the bones, liver and kidneys. It is spread from person to person through airborne inhalation. According to The Foundation for Better Health Care, it is the leading cause of death among infectious diseases. There is a latent form and an active form, and symptoms are only evident when the disease is in its active form.

Doctor examinging patient's cough. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

Cough and Chest Pain

One of the classic symptom experienced with tuberculosis is persistent cough. This develops because of the location of tuberculosis initially in the lungs. Since cough can be attributed to other common ailments such as smoking or asthma, it is easy to not notice this symptom. Initially, this cough is dry, and ongoing for weeks and months. Sometimes this cough comes with blood-filled sputum, as tuberculosis damages the tissue lining of the lungs. There is usually a sharp, intense chest pain felt in the early stages of tuberculosis, which is also made worse by coughing. As more of the lung tissues are damaged, shortness of breath could occur.

Fever and Night Sweats

Fever is the body's immune system defense mechanism to fight any infection. With tuberculosis, low fever is a common symptom. The body temperature rises in response, as a mode of fighting off the infection. As the body attempts to bring its temperature back to normal, any excess heat is removed from the body through intense sweating. Since this usually occurs at night, this symptom is known as night sweats. These night sweats can leave a person feeling very weak and tired.

Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss

The culmination of cough, weakness and pain cause a loss of appetite to develop, which can quickly lead to unintentional weight loss. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria also releases chemical signals which cause the body to respond by chronic weight loss. This is a classic symptom seen in early and advanced stages of active tuberculosis.

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