AirPhysio Blog

Tuberculosis – Condition and Treatment

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is an infectious disease caused by infection with the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can involve the kidneys, bones, spine, brain and other parts of the body.

Tuberculosis can damage a person’s lungs or other parts of the body and cause serious illness. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.

If a tuberculosis infection does become active, it most commonly involves the lungs (in about 90% of cases). Symptoms may include chest pain and a prolonged cough producing sputum. About 25% of people may not have any symptoms (i.e. they remain “asymptomatic”). Occasionally, people may cough up blood in small amounts, and in very rare cases, the infection may erode into the pulmonary artery or a Rasmussen’s aneurysm, resulting in massive bleeding.

The eroding of the airway generally is what leads to pockets and damage of the airway walls, which leads to Bronchiectasis and the build-up of mucus and phlegm.

What is the difference between TB Infection and TB Disease?

TB Infection: 

The TB germs are in the body, but they are “inactive”. In most cases, the body’s defences control the germs. However, these germs can stay alive in an inactive state.

While the TB germs are inactive, they cannot do any damage, or be spread to other people. The person is “infected”, but not sick. For most (90 per cent of people) the germs will always be inactive. Infection can be detected by a positive result to a Tuberculin Skin Test.

TB Disease:

It is possible, even after many years, for inactive TB germs to become active when the body’s defences are weakened. This may be due to ageing, serious illness, stressful event, drug or alcohol misuse, HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS) or other conditions.

When inactive TB germs become active, TB disease can develop.

What are the signs and symptoms of Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis can attack any part of the body, but the lungs are the most common site. People with TB may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • A cough that lasts more than three weeks
  • Always feeling tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Bloodstained sputum
  • Pain and/or swelling in the affected area when TB is outside the lungs.

Sometimes there are no symptoms. Only about 10 per cent of people who are infected with TB germs will get TB disease.

People with Tuberculosis of the lungs or throat can be infectious to others. In most cases, after two weeks of taking medication, people with Tuberculosis disease will no longer spread Tuberculosis germs.

People with Tuberculosis in other parts of the body are not infectious.

High-risk groups for Tuberculosis

Most cases are in people who were born overseas. The most common way to catch TB is if you have close contact over a long period of time with somebody who has untreated, active disease in the lungs.

People who are at higher risk of developing active TB infection include:

  • Migrants and refugees
  • Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders (in northern Australia)
  • People living with a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with alcoholism
  • People who are older
  • People living in institutions
  • People living in overcrowded conditions
  • People with diabetes
  • Health professionals.

Why Shouldn’t You Use AirPhysio for this condition?

While Tuberculosis is active and there is a potential for bleeding or further damage, it is recommended not to use the AirPhysio device. But once the doctor has cleared you of Tuberculosis and they believe that the lung tissue has healed, it should be fine (with the doctor’s permission) to start using AirPhysio to help clear any build-up of mucus and phlegm in the pockets of the airway which the Tuberculosis would have left (i.e. Bronchiectasis).

For more information about Tuberculosis, please refer to the following web pages and articles:

NSW Infectious Diseases Fact sheet – Tuberculosis
Healthy WA – Tuberculosis

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