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Tuberculosis (cont.)

What Are Treatment Options for Tuberculosis (TB)?

Today, doctors treat most people with TB outside the hospital. Gone are the days of going to the mountains for long periods of bed rest. Doctors seldom use surgery.

  • Doctors will prescribe several special medications that you must take for six to nine months.
  • Standard therapy for active TB consists of a six-month regimen:
  • Treatment takes that long because the disease organisms grow very slowly and, unfortunately, also die very slowly. (Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a very slow-growing organism and may take up to six weeks to grow in a culture media.)
  • Doctors use multiple drugs to reduce the likelihood of resistant organisms emerging.
  • Often the drugs will be changed or chosen based on the laboratory results.
    • If doctors doubt that you are taking your medicine, they may have you come to the office for doses. Prescribing doses twice a week helps assure compliance.
    • The most common cause of treatment failure is people's failure to comply with the medical regimen. This may lead to the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. You must take your medications as directed, even if you are feeling better.
  • Another important aspect of tuberculosis treatment is public health. This is an area of community health for which mandated treatment can occur. In some cases, the local health department will supervise administration of the medication for the entire course of therapy.
  • Doctors likely will contact or trace your relatives and friends.
  • Your relatives and friends may need to undergo appropriate skin tests and chest X-rays.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2016

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