What is tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that seriously impacts your lung's health and can easily infect the people around you.

  • Bacteria that causes TB can spread through small drops that are released into the air during coughing or sneezing.

  • There are two types of TB disease:

    • Active TB: This type of TB disease will make you sick and the bacteria can easily be transmitted to others. Active TB needs to be treated immediately.

    • Latent TB: The bacteria that causes TB remains in your body in an inactive state and your body does not show signs of illness. This type of TB is not contagious but the bacteria can suddenly become active in the future. Therefore, this type of TB should also be treated.

What are the indications?

Among the signs that you may have tuberculosis (TB) are:

  • Chest pain during coughing or breathing

  • Weight loss out of a sudden

  • Feverish

  • Body always feels tired

  • Non-stop coughing for three weeks or more

  • Coughing blood

  • Body always shivering

  • Loss of appetite

  • Frequent sweating during the night

TB bacteria can be released into the air during sneezing or coughing

Coughing blood is one of the signs you have TB

What are the causes?

Among the causes of tuberculosis (TB) are:

  • Having a weak immune system: This will increase the risk of TB infection. Your immune system can be weakened as a result of -

    • Having diseases such as cancer, AIDS / HIV, diabetes, kidney disease.

    • Taking certain medications such as psoriasis, arthritis and Crohn's disease.

    • Being too young or too old (baby and elderly).

    • Undergoing chemotherapy.

    • Malnourished body.

    • Smoking.

    • Excessive drinking of alcohol.

  • The situation in your community where TB infection has become a norm: This can increase your risk of getting infected with TB.

How to avoid & control it?

The steps that can be taken to prevent tuberculosis (TB) are:


  • Injecting bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine to babies as it can prevent TB infection in children.

  • Consume alcohol in moderation.

  • Stop smoking cigarettes.

If you are infected with TB, make sure you:

  • Consume the entire medication given to you within the time frame set by your doctor. This is to prevent the TB bacteria becoming stronger in your body resisting the effects of these drugs.

  • Stay in your house until you fully recover from the TB infection.

  • Wear surgical mask all the time.

  • Be careful not to cough or sneeze in front of others. Cover your mouth with cloth or tissue during coughing or sneezing.

How it is detected?

If you have any signs of tuberculosis (TB) that have been mentioned, discuss with the doctor about your specific situation. With the advice of a doctor, you can decide whether the screening method is right for you.

Tuberculosis (TB) is detected using:

  • Blood test: Your blood sample will be taken and analyzed to detect the presence of any TB infection.

  • Sputum test: Your sputum sample (a fluid that appears when you cough) will be taken to detect the presence of any TB bacteria.

  • Skin test: Injection of a type of substance called 'PPD tuberculin' under the skin of your forearm. Then, the doctor will check the injection spot on your forearm for signs of any swelling. You may have TB infection if it becomes swollen.

  • Imaging tests aim to produce images of your lungs to detect any abnormal conditions by using -

    • CT scan

    • X-ray

How it is treated?

Discuss with your doctor what type of treatment is best for your specific situation.

The method to treat tuberculosis (TB) is by:

  • Consuming specific medications to kill TB bacteria: It is important for you to consume these medicines within a specified time period advised by your doctor. Notify your doctor if any side effects from consuming such medications are seen such as:

    • Continuous fever for three days or more

    • Frequent vomiting

    • Urine becomes dark

    • Loss of appetite

    • Your skin color becomes yellowish (jaundice)

When do you need to see a doctor?

  • Make an appointment with your doctor if you recognize signs of tuberculosis infection.

  • Each hospital has different methods for screening tuberculosis.

  • Discuss the tuberculosis screening with your doctor. Together with a physician, you can decide what is best for you.

Malaysia has been voted numerous times as the best destination to seek quality affordable healthcare. Find a hospital in Malaysia that suits your specific situation here: Hospital Guide

How to get ready with your appointments?

For your preparation, a medical specialist may ask you some questions as follows:

  • Are the signs of your illness occurring continuously or occasionally?

  • How severe are the illness signs on your body?

  • Since when did you begin to experience the signs of the illness?

  • ​Do you have friends/family/colleagues who have active TB?

  • Were you given BCG vaccine while still a baby to protect against tuberculosis?

  • Do you have HIV or AIDS?

  • What triggers the signs of your illness to be more severe? (if any)

  • What do you usually do to relieve any signs of your illness?



What you can do to prepare before the appointment is:

  • List the signs of your illness.

  • Know any restriction that needs to be done before the appointment. Make sure to ask first what to do before appointment (such as limiting your diet, etc.).

  • List all the medicines, vitamins or supplements you consume.

  • If possible, invite family members or friends to be with you. Sometimes we find it difficult to remember all the information during the appointment. Your companion might just help you with this.

  • List your personal information that can help your doctor in investigating your illness (such as major stresses in your life or any changes in your life recently).

  • List all the questions you would like to ask your doctor.

Here are some general questions that you can ask your doctor:

  • What are the possible causes for signs of illness that appear on me?

  • What method of screening should I take? Do I need to make any necessary arrangements before doing the screening?

  • What is the severity of my illness?

  • Should I get a second doctor's opinion of my condition?

  • What are the treatment options that are suitable for my condition?

  • Are there any side effects for each treatment?

  • How does each treatment option affect my daily life?

  • How big is my possibility of getting completely healed from the disease if I undergo the treatment?

  • Do I need to undergo the treatment immediately without delay?

  • How long will the treatment last?

  • How often should I get examined after treatment?

  • What are the complications that I need to face in the future?

  • What other alternatives are available apart from the medicines you prescribed? (if any)

  • Do I need to make any changes to my lifestyle? What nutrition and level of activity are appropriate for my condition?

  • What else can I do to protect my health?

  • I have other health problems. How can I best manage this situation?

If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask the doctor during your appointment.

Updated: January 30, 2019


  1. Papadakis, Maxine A., McPhee, Stephen J., Rabow, Michael W. CURRENT Medical Diagnosis and Treatment. 58th ed. McGraw Hill Professional, 2018.

  2. Porter, Robert S. The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms: A Concise, Practical Guide to Etiology, Evaluation and Treatment. Wiley, 2008.

  3. Beirman, Robin., Engel, Roger. An A-Z of Symptoms and Signs. Palgrave Macmillan Australia, 2009.

  4. Griffith, Henry W. Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery. 3rd ed. Body Press/Perigree Books, 1995.

  5. National Health Service. 2019. Tuberculosis. []. Accessed 09 January 2019.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Tuberculosis. []. Accessed 13 January 2019.

TB disease can be detected using chest X-ray

Specific drugs are used to treat TB

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