Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body. The TB skin test can tell if you have TB bacteria in your body. Many people are exposed to TB and test positive for TB bacteria in their bodies, but they don't get the disease. TB bacteria can stay in your body without making you sick. This is because your immune system can keep TB in check.
Your doctor may want you to have a TB skin test if you have been in close contact with someone who has TB. Or you may need the test if you have symptoms that might be caused by TB, such as a cough that does not go away, a fever, or weight loss. You also may get the test if you are a health care worker.
During the skin test, part of a TB bacterium is injected under your skin. The test will feel like a skin prick. If you have TB bacteria in your body, a firm red bump will form at the shot site within 2 days. If the test shows that you are infected with TB (positive), your doctor probably will order more tests. A TB-positive skin test can't tell when you became infected with TB. And it can't tell whether the infection can be passed to others.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: March 3, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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