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Symptoms - Tuberculosis (TB)

The symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) vary depending on which part of the body is affected.

TB disease usually develops slowly, and it may take several weeks before you notice you're unwell.

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

Sometimes the infection does not cause any symptoms. This is known as latent TB.

It's called active TB if you have symptoms. However, in some cases, symptoms might not develop until months or even years after the initial infection.

Contact a GP if you or your child have symptoms of TB.

General symptoms of TB

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

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

TB that affects the lungs (pulmonary TB)

Most TB infections affect the lungs, which can cause:

  • a persistent cough that lasts more than 3 weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
  • breathlessness that gradually gets worse

TB outside the lungs

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

Symptoms can include:

TB affecting other parts of the body is more common in people who have a weakened immune system.

Page last reviewed: 12 November 2019
Next review due: 12 November 2022