Tuberculosis | Treatment

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If I do not have active TB, how will my doctor treat my tuberculosis infection?

To be sure that you remain healthy, your doctor may recommend that you take an antibiotic for 6 to 9 months to kill the tuberculosis infection. If you don't take the medicine, the bacteria will remain in your lungs, and you will always be in danger of developing active tuberculosis. The medicine used to treat tuberculosis infection is isoniazid (say: eye-so-nye-ah-zid), which is also called INH. You will either take a daily oral dose of INH or a twice weekly oral dose. If you don’t take all your medicine, the tuberculosis may come back.

It is very important that you take the medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes. Keep your medicine in a place where you will always see it. Take it at the same time every day. It may help to write yourself a note or set an alarm to remind you to take it. Ask your doctor what to do if you forget to take a pill.

People who take INH may have side effects, but these usually do not happen very often. Side effects include a skin rash, an upset stomach or liver disease. Ask your doctor about other possible side effects.

Don't drink alcohol or take acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) while taking INH because this can damage your liver. Always check with your doctor before you take any other medicine because some drugs interact with INH and can cause side effects.

Your doctor may want to monitor you every month. For example you may need to visit your doctor to get another prescription of the medicine you are taking and to monitor any side effects or problems you are experiencing from the medicine. If you are feeling well, your doctor will give you a prescription for the next month.

Could I still get active tuberculosis after I take INH for 6 to 9 months?

There is a small chance that you could develop active tuberculosis even after you take the medicine as directed for 6 to 9 months. This is because some bacteria are resistant to the medicine. Staying healthy depends on having sensible living habits. You need enough sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet to maintain your health and resistance to the tuberculosis bacteria.

What is the treatment for active tuberculosis?

To treat active TB, it is necessary to take several antibiotics at the same time so that the TB does not become resistant to treatment. If you have active TB, your doctor will likely recommend that you take the 4 following medicines:

  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin
  • Ethambutol
  • Pyrazinamide

It's very important that you take all the medicine given to you. For the medicines to work effectively at curing your tuberculosis, you must not skip a single dose.

Avoid drinking alcohol or taking acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) while you're taking the tuberculosis medicine because this could damage your liver. Tell your doctor about any other medicines you may be taking.

Your doctor may also order several sputum and blood tests to be done while you are being treated for tuberculosis. (Sputum is phlegm coughed up from deep inside the lungs.) These tests can be done by the nurse or at a clinic.

Although side effects from tuberculosis medicine are not common, they can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, tenderness or soreness
  • Blurry vision or color-blindness
  • Dark (coffee-colored) urine
  • Fever that lasts 3 days or longer
  • Jaundice (the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/10
Created: 11/96

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