Symptoms of tuberculosis 

The symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) depend on where the infection occurs.

TB usually develops slowly. Your symptoms might not begin until months or even years after you were initially infected.

In some cases the infection doesn't cause any symptoms, which is known as latent TB. It's called active TB if you have symptoms. You should contact your GP if you or your child have symptoms of TB.

Read about the causes of tuberculosis for more information about latent and active TB.

Main symptoms

General symptoms of TB include:

  • lack of appetite and weight loss
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • night sweats
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue

These symptoms can have many different causes, however, and are not always a sign of TB.

Additional symptoms

TB can also cause additional symptoms depending on which part of the body is infected.

Pulmonary TB

Most infections affect the lungs, which can cause:

  • a persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
  • breathlessness that gradually gets worse

This is known as pulmonary TB.

Extrapulmonary TB

Less commonly, TB infections develop in areas outside the lungs, such as the lymph nodes (small glands that form part of the immune system), the bones and joints, the digestive system, the bladder and reproductive system, and the nervous system (brain and nerves).

This is known as extrapulmonary TB.

Symptoms of extrapulmonary TB vary, but can include:

Extrapulmonary TB is more common in people with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV.

Page last reviewed: 03/12/2014

Next review due: 03/12/2016