Complications of Untreated Active Tuberculosis


Tuberculosis is a contagious disease like common cold. It spreads from one person to another through air. If the infected person is not treated, it can lead to serious health problems and some times even death. Early diagnosis and treatment is the only alternative to get TB treated.

According to World Health Organization:

  • An individual with active TB has chances of infecting on an average between 10 and 15 individuals every year.
  • Every year, over 2 million people are dying of TB.
  • It is estimated that between 2002 and 2020, over 1000 million people will get infected newly, over 150 million people will fall ill, and 36 million will die with TB.

Complications of untreated active TB:

  • Pulmonary TB: TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As this bacteria affect the lungs, it is called Pulmonary TB. If the TB is not diagnosed and treated early, there are chances of permanent damage to lung. In addition, it spreads to other parts of the body such as bones, kidneys, brain or the whole body.
    Note: The person with Pulmonary TB is highly infectious. When the infected person sneezes, speaks, sings or coughs, it may spread to others.

  • Tuberculous meningitis: It is also known as TB meningitis or central nervous system tuberculosis. The infection spreads from lungs to meninges – a membrane that covers central nervous system.
    If TB meningitis is not diagnosed and treated early, then it can lead to severe complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, fluid accumulation between the skull and brain, hydrocephalus and even death of the patient.
  • Miliary TB: It is also known as Disseminated tuberculosis and Extrapulmonary tuberculosis. The infection spreads from the lungs to the other parts of the body such as liver, spleen, etc., through the blood or lymph system.
    If it is not diagnosed and treated early, then it may lead to severe complications such as adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), liver inflammation, lung failure and even death.
  • Osseous TB: When the bacterial infection spreads to the bones, it is called as osseous TB. If it is not diagnosed and treated early, then it can lead to severe complications such as joint destruction, nerve compression, spinal cord compression, joint compression or collapse of the vertebrae.

Tuberculosis is a curable disease and getting diagnosed and treated quickly can prevent serious complications.


You may also like to read:
Basic Facts on Tuberculosis (TB)
How Does Tuberculosis Spread and How to Prevent the Spread?
Tuberculosis (TB) – Diagnosis and Treatment
Taking Medications Correctly is an Important Aspect of Treating TB

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