Medical History and Physical Examination for Tuberculosis (TB)
British Columbia Specific Information
Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a serious disease. TB is caused by bacteria that spread through the air when a person with contagious TB coughs, sneezes, sings, or talks. TB usually affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body like glands, bones, joints, kidneys, the brain, and reproductive organs.
For more information on TB, including testing and home isolation, see HealthLinkBC File #51a Tuberculosis (TB), HealthLinkBC File #51b Sputum Collection for Tuberculosis (TB) Testing, and HealthLinkBC File #51c Home Isolation for Tuberculosis (TB). For more information about TB, including information about TB clinics and programs, visit BC Centre for Disease Control – Tuberculosis.
When you give your medical history, your doctor collects information about whether you are likely to have tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial infection. An active infection can spread to other people. A latent infection cannot spread to other people, but it can turn active and become contagious. Your doctor will ask whether you:
- Have symptoms of active TB, such as ongoing cough, fatigue, fever, or night sweats.
- Have been in any situations that may increase your risk of being infected with TB-causing bacteria, such as contact with a person who has active TB, recent travel to places where TB is common, or having a weakened immune system.
- Have had a tuberculin skin test (TB skin test, PPD test) before, and what the results were.
- Have an HIV infection.
- Are taking any medicines, both prescription and non-prescription. Your doctor will want a list of all of these medicines, including herbs and natural products.
- Have been diagnosed with TB in the past but were not treated.
The physical examination looks for signs of TB. A doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your breathing for sounds that indicate a problem in your lungs. The doctor also will look for signs of a TB infection in parts of the body other than your lungs (extrapulmonary TB).
Why It Is Done
A medical history and physical examination may be done to check for TB if you have:
- TB symptoms, such as ongoing cough, fatigue, fever, or night sweats.
- Close contact with a person infected with active TB disease.
- Spent time in a country where TB is common.
Results from the physical examination may include:
- The sounds your lungs make while you breathe are normal.
- You do not have a cough or a fever.
- There are no signs of TB infection in parts of the body other than your lungs (extrapulmonary TB).
- The sounds your lungs make while you breathe indicate a problem.
- You have a cough or a fever.
- You have signs of TB infection in parts of the body other than your lungs, such as swollen lymph nodes.
What To Think About
Although the medical history and physical examination can suggest you have active TB disease, finding TB-causing bacteria in the mucus from your lungs (sputum) provides proof.
The medical history alone does not prove whether you have TB disease in parts of the body other than your lungs (extrapulmonary TB). Examining a sample of tissue from the affected area or organ (biopsy) for TB-causing bacteria is the only way to know for sure.
Current as of: May 22, 2015
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.