Living With Tuberculosis | American Lung Association

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Living With Tuberculosis

What to Expect

While you are in treatment for active TB disease, you will need regular checkups to make sure your treatment is working.

You must finish your medicine and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. If you stop taking the drugs too soon you can become sick again and potentially spread the disease to others around you.  If you do not take the drugs correctly, the TB germs that are still alive can become resistant to the drugs.

Sometimes the drugs used to treat TB can cause side effects. If you are taking medicine for preventive therapy or for active TB disease let your doctor know if you begin having any unusual symptoms. Side effects of TB drugs depend on the individual drugs and a person's sensitivity to those drugs. They can include:

  • no appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • yellowish skin or eyes
  • fever for 3 or more days
  • abdominal pain
  • tingling fingers or toes
  • skin rash
  • easy bleeding
  • aching joints
  • dizziness
  • tingling or numbness around the mouth
  • easy bruising
  • blurred or changed vision
  • ringing in the ears
  • hearing loss

Managing the Disease

Tips for Taking TB Medicine

If you are taking TB medicine on your own, without Directly Observed Therapy (DOT), it's important to get into a routine. Here are some ways to help you remember to take your TB medicine:

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day. For example, you can take it before breakfast, or after you brush your teeth.
  • Each day when you take your medicine mark it off on a calendar.
  • Get a weekly pill dispenser that has a section for each day of the week. Put your pills in it.
  • Ask someone close to you to check in daily to make sure you have taken your medicine.
  • Ask your healthcare provider what you should do if you forget to take your pills.

If you and your doctors have any concerns about you being able to manage your medicine on your own, you may need to work with a healthcare worker who will make sure you are taking your medicine correctly. This is called Directly Observed Therapy (DOT).

Drug-Resistant TB

If you take the medicine incorrectly or stop taking it, you may become sick again and will be able to infect others with TB. The TB may be harder to treat a second time if it has become drug resistant. Learn more about drug-resistant TB.

Don't Spread Your TB

If you have active TB disease, it will take a few weeks of treatment before you can't spread TB bacteria to others. Until your healthcare provider tells you to go back to your daily routine, here are ways to protect yourself and others near you:

  • Take your medicine exactly as the healthcare provider directed.
  • When you cough, sneeze or laugh, cover your mouth with a tissue. Put the tissue in a closed bag and throw it away.
  • Do not go to work or school until your healthcare provider says it's OK to go back. Avoid close contact with anyone. Sleep in a bedroom alone.
  • Air out your room often so the TB germs don't stay in the room and infect someone who breathes the air.

    Webpage Resource

    Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Tuberculosis

    Learn more

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed March 30, 2018.

    Page Last Updated: October 15, 2018

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