George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Tuberculosis facts
- What is tuberculosis?
- How does a person get TB?
- What happens to the body when a person gets TB?
- How common is TB, and who gets it?
- What are the symptoms and signs of tuberculosis?
- How does a doctor diagnose tuberculosis?
- Is there a vaccine against tuberculosis?
- What is the treatment for tuberculosis?
- What is drug-resistant TB?
- What's in the future for TB?
How common is TB, and who gets it?
Over 8 million new cases of TB occur each year worldwide. In the United States, it is estimated that 10-15 million people are infected with the TB bacteria, and 22,000 new cases of TB occur each year.
Anyone can get TB, but certain people are at higher risk, including
- people who live with individuals who have an active TB infection,
- poor or homeless people,
- foreign-born people from countries that have a high prevalence of TB,
- nursing-home residents and prison inmates,
- alcoholics and intravenous drug users,
- people with diabetes, certain cancers, and HIV infection (the AIDS virus),
- health-care workers.
There is no strong evidence for a genetically determined (inherited) susceptibility for TB.
What are the symptoms and signs of tuberculosis?
As previously mentioned, TB infection usually occurs initially in the upper part (lobe) of the lungs. The body's immune system, however, can stop the bacteria from continuing to reproduce. Thus, the immune system can make the lung infection inactive (dormant). On the other hand, if the body's immune system cannot contain the TB bacteria, the bacteria will reproduce (become active or reactivate) in the lungs and spread elsewhere in the body.
It may take many months from the time the infection initially gets into the lungs until symptoms develop. The usual symptoms that occur with an active TB infection are a generalized tiredness or weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. If the infection in the lung worsens, then further symptoms can include coughing, chest pain, coughing up of sputum (material from the lungs) and/or blood, and shortness of breath. If the infection spreads beyond the lungs, the symptoms will depend upon the organs involved.
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