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Tuberculoses or TB is a contagious infection that usually attacks your lungs. It can spread to other parts of your body, like your brain and spine.

In the early 20th century, TB was a leading cause of death around the world. Today, most cases are cured with antibiotics. But it takes a long time. You have to take medication for at least 6 to 10 months.

Tuberculosis Types

A TB infection doesn’t mean you’ll get sick. There are two forms of the disease:

Latent TB 

You have the germs in your body, but your immune system stops them from spreading. That means you don’t have any symptoms and you’re not contagious. But the infection is still alive in your body and can one day become active. If you’re at high risk for re-activation -- for instance, you have HIV, your primary infection was in the past 2 years, your chest X-ray is abnormal, or your immune system is compromised. Your doctor will treat you with antibiotics to lower the risk for developing active TB.  

Active TB 

Active means the germs multiply and can make you sick. You can spread the disease to others. Ninety percent of adult cases of active TB are from the reactivation of a latent TB infection.

You can get TB only if you come into contact with others who have it. Other things that could increase your risk include:

  • A friend, co-worker, or family member has active TB.
  • You live in or have traveled to an area where TB is common, like Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
  • You’re part of a group in which TB is more likely to spread, or you work or live with someone who is. This includes homeless people, people with HIV, people in jail or prison, and people who inject drugs into their veins.
  • You work or live in a hospital or nursing home.
  • You are a health care worker for patients at high risk of TB.
  • You are a smoker.