Symptoms of tuberculosis

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It’s important to know that some people may have no symptoms or only mild ones. They may therefore spread bacteria without knowing they have TB.

Tuberculosis symptoms may include the following:

  • A cough that starts out dry but later produces blood or sputum (thick liquid from deep inside the lungs)
  • -Coughing for longer than a month
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulty e.g. shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Loss of weight and appetite
  • Chills and fevers (the fever may be low and may be intermittent)
  • Joint pain
  • Wheezing
  • Rales (additional sounds made to those of normal breathing)
  • Excessive sweating, including sweating at night
  • Hearing loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • A persistent lump or lesion
  • Clubbing of fingers or toes – the nails become swollen and feel slightly "pulpy".

When to see a doctor

Call a health professional if:

  • You have been exposed to TB, or if symptoms develop
  • Symptoms persist despite treatment
  • New symptoms develop 

Read more: 

What is tuberculosis? 

What causes tuberculosis? 

Diagnosing tuberculosis

Reviewed by Dr AW Dreyer, Pathologist and Clinical Microbiologist, Centre for Tuberculosis, National Institute for Communicable Diseases February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Joanna Evans, PhD, Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit, Division of Medical Microbiology Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, February 2011.

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