Complications of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Complications of Pulmonary Tuberculosis
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Pulmonary tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. This is the most prevalent disease throughout the world and it results in more deaths than any of the other infectious diseases. There are approximately two billion people infected with this disease. There are about 10 cases of this diseases for every 100,000 people in the United States. Complications of pulmonary tuberculosis can occur when this disease is left untreated and they can be very serious.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Most patients will not experience symptoms during the primary stage of this disease. However, when they do occur they can include cough (sometimes accompanied by phlegm), unintentional weight loss, coughing up blood, fever, excessive sweating (particularly at night), and fatigue. A few other symptoms may occur with this infectious disease and they include difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest pain.

Causes of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

This infectious disease is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. This bacteria is transmitted through the air by breathing in droplets from a sneeze or cough from an infected person. Those who are at the highest risk for contacting this disease include infants, the elderly, and those who have weakened immune systems. Several things can weaken a person’s immune system, such as chemotherapy, AIDS, or the antirejection medications administered after a patient receives an organ transplant.

Those who have a high risk of contracting this disease include those who frequently interact with those who have this disease (such as health care workers), those who live in unsanitary or crowded living conditions, and those who have poor nutrition.

Other issues that can increase the risk of this disease include an increase in the amount of homeless people, an increase in HIV infections, and the introduction of drug-resistant strains of this disease.

Complications of Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Permanent lung damage is a possible complication of pulmonary tuberculosis if it is not treated early. The medications used to treat this disease can cause side effects as well, including liver problems. Other side effects can include vision changes, rash, and brown or orange-colored urine and tears.

Diagnosing Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Diagnosing this disease most often begins with an examination. During this examination the doctor will specifically look for clubbing of the toes or fingers, fluid around the lung, tender or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or elsewhere, and unusual breath sounds (crackling). The tests that may be conducted in order to diagnose this infectious disease include bronchoscopy, chest x-ray, Interferon-gamma blood test, thoracentesis, chest CT scan, sputum examination and culture, and tuberculin skin test. In rare cases the affected tissue may be biopsied.

Treating Pulmonary Tuberculosis

The main goal of treatment is to use tuberculosis bacteria fighting drugs to cure the infection. The most commonly prescribed drugs include isonizid, pyrazinamide, rifampin, and ethambutol. Other drugs that may be prescribed include amikacin, moxifloxacin, streptomycin, ethionamide, and para-aminosalicylic acid.


Pulmonary Tuberculosis Organization. (2010). Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Retrieved on April 20, 2010 from the Pulmonary Tuberculosis Organization:

Medline Plus. (2009). Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Retrieved on April 22, 2010 from Medline Plus:

Image Credits

Chest X-Ray: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Wikimedia Commons