Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Tuberculosis

Overview

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that usually settles in the lungs. The infection can also attack other organs, such as lymph nodes, kidneys, and the brain. 

TB can be active or inactive:

  • Active TB spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, laughs, talks, sneezes, or sings. However, you’d have to spend a lot of time near this person before you become infected.
  • You can’t spread the inactive type to others. 

TB isn’t spread from toilet seats, kissing, shaking hands, or having sex. It’s also not spread by sharing drinks, food, or toothbrushes.

Although it’s a serious infection, TB can be cured with proper treatment. TB is treated with medications. Left untreated, active TB can be deadly.

Types

The most common type is inactive (latent) TB infection (“LTBI”). You don’t have symptoms and can’t spread LTBI to others. 

Active TB makes you feel sick and is contagious. Some people with TB develop active TB, which: 

  • Can start when the immune system is weakened by another illness.
  • Is seen more often in babies and older adults.
  • Is contagious only when in the lungs or airways in the throat.
  • Can be deadly if left untreated.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a rare but more serious type of TB. It’s difficult to treat and causes more serious health problems.

You can get MDR-TB:

  • From a person who has this condition.
  • If you don’t take your TB medicines as directed.

Risk Factors

You can be exposed to TB bacteria without knowing it. 

Your risk of developing active TB is higher if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system (such as from diabetes, cancer, lupus, or HIV/AIDS).
  • Were infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years.
  • Have poor nutrition.
  • Smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Are an infant or older adult.
  • Have traveled in countries where active TB is common (Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe).

You’re at higher risk for active TB, recurring TB, or MDR-TB if you:

  • Were exposed to TB in the past.
  • Had active TB and were not properly treated.
  • Are in close contact over a long period of time with someone who has active TB.

Symptoms

LTBI (inactive) doesn’t cause any symptoms. 

Active TB can cause:

  • Persistent cough, lasting 2 weeks or longer
  • Cough that produces blood or mucus (phlegm)
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pain and wheezing

When TB spreads to another area of the body, you may also have:

  • Joint pain
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Low blood iron (anemia)
  • Swollen, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck, armpits, and groin

Let us know if you have these symptoms or if you’ve been exposed to someone with TB.

Diagnosis

TB symptoms are similar to other conditions, which can make it difficult to diagnose. You also might not have any symptoms if you have LTBI (inactive TB).

To diagnose LTBI, we may order a:

  • Skin test to look for a reaction that indicates TB.
  • Blood test to identify the infection. 

To diagnose active TB, we:

  • Test samples of your mucus to find out if you’re contagious.
  • Repeat this test to make sure your treatment is working if needed. 

We may recommend other tests, depending on your symptoms. For example, we may recommend a chest X-ray to help diagnose LTBI or active TB. The X-ray is usually normal for LTBI but abnormal for active TB.

Treatment

LTBI is usually treated with one antibiotic for 9 months to prevent active TB. 

Active TB is often treated with several daily antibiotics for 6 to 12 months. Treatment depends on your symptoms and tolerance of side effects. 

You should begin to feel better within a few weeks, and you’ll no longer be contagious. 

It’s important to continue taking your medicine exactly as prescribed. If not, TB can continue or worsen. You’ll also be contagious again. 

MDR-TB can cause serious illness and is more difficult to treat. 

The infection is resistant to common TB antibiotics. You may need to take several different antibiotics that can cause side effects. You’ll be closely monitored.  

Let us know if you’re taking HIV/AIDs medicines. Some can make TB antibiotics less effective.

Lifestyle Changes

To fully recover and prevent spreading TB to others:

  • Avoid public places. Stay home until you’re not contagious.
  • Sleep in a separate room, away from family members.
  • Have visitors and caregivers wear masks.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
  • Attend all clinic appointments.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Place tissue that contains mucus in a closed bag before throwing out.
  • Stop smoking. Your lungs must be strong to fight TB.
  • Avoid alcohol.

You may need to stay alone in your home until you can’t spread TB to others. The Department of Public Health works with us to determine when isolation is needed. They might also want to watch you take your medicine (called directly observed therapy).

When to Call Us

Contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Fever
  • Unexplained bruises
  • A tingling sensation in your hands or feet
  • Vision or hearing changes
  • A rash or hives

For Caregivers

If you’re in close contact with someone with active TB, we recommend that you get tested. It’s important to get early treatment for both LTBI and active TB.

We may ask you to wear a mask while caring for someone with active TB. This is especially important during their first few weeks of treatment, when they’re still contagious.

Make sure the person with TB:

  • Covers their mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Washes their hands regularly.
  • Takes medicines exactly as prescribed. You may want to keep track of when they take medicines.
  • Takes medicines with small meals, if the antibiotics upset their stomach.
  • Contacts their doctor if medication side effects, such as nausea and vomiting or fever, become severe.

Additional References:

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.