Disease progression after infection

How Is TB Diagnosed?

What to expect when you’re diagnosed with TB.

Your doctor, nurse, or clinic sister wants to test you for Tuberculosis (TB). Here’s what to expect

Getting tested for TB

If your doctor, nurse, or clinic sister is worried about your health, they may suggest you undergo a TB test. If any signs of TB are present in your body, it’s a good idea to get tested as soon as possible.

TB symptoms

Tuberculosis can affect almost any organ in your body, but it is most commonly found in your lungs. Your doctor, nurse, or clinic sister will suggest a TB test if you have any of the following TB symptoms;

  • Night sweats
  • Persistent coughing for at least a week
  • Coughing up blood/phlegm consistently
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • High temperature or fever
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The TB test

TB tests are simple.  The most common one in South Africa is the sputum test. Various countries will use different tests but sputum tests are preferred in regions where there’s a high prevalence of latent TB.

You’ll be asked to cough and spit onto a medical slide, or into a container. This sample is laboratory tested for the presence of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. Your results should arrive within the following few days. In South Africa, we regularly use what is called the rapid sputum test. This provides your within 24 hours. If you’re uncertain about your TB test results, you can request further tests. This may include having an x-ray, or similar scan.

TB diagnosis

If you are diagnosed with TB, your doctor will place you on a TB treatment plan and tell you everything you need to know. Take your medication as directed and make sure you attend every scheduled medical appointment. Remember: TB is fully treatable and you can recover from it, as long as you stick to your treatment regime.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB). 4 May. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/drtb/xdrtb.htm [Accessed 22 July 2019].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Signs & symptoms. 17 March. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/signsandsymptoms.htm [Accessed 22 July 2019].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Tuberculosis (TB) disease: symptoms and risk factors. 24 January. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/features/tbsymptoms/index.html [Accessed 22 July 2019].

Mayo Clinic. 2019. Tuberculosis. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250 [Accessed 22 July 2019].

McIntosh, J. 2018. All you need to know about tuberculosis. Medical news today. 16 November. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8856.php [Accessed 22 July 2019].

TB Alert. n.d.. Do I have TB. Available at: https://www.thetruthabouttb.org/do-i-have-tb/ [Accessed 22 July 2019].

TB Facts. 2019. Symptoms of TB – tiredness, losing weight, fever, cough. Available at: https://www.tbfacts.org/symptoms-of-tb/ [Accessed 22 July 2019].

TB Facts. 2019. TB Tests – Tests for diagnosis of TB, sputum test, blood test. Available at: https://www.tbfacts.org/tb-tests/ [Accessed 22 July 2019].

Western Cape Government. 2017. TB and you. 3 March. Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/tb [Accessed 22 July 2019].

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