The Importance of TB Testing
Reading through histories of the nineteenth century, “consumption” was a major cause of illness and death due to the way the afflicted would become weak, lose their appetite, and lose weight. This disease was later classified as tuberculosis, or TB, and eventually, treatments were developed. However, the disease is still not quick to treat, typically requiring several medications being prescribed for a length of 6 to 9 months, and it can still hold risk of death or serious complications if not treated as directed.
Because of the dangers that TB may still pose, routine testing is vital. The CDC recommends many different types of people be tested for TB, whether due to high risk of being infected, or high risk for developing the disease.
Those at high risk for being infected:
- People who have spent time with a person who has TB disease
- Those from countries where TB is common (Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia)
- Those who live or work in high-risk settings, such as correctional facilities, nursing homes, and homeless shelters
- Health-care workers caring for patients with increased risk of TB disease
- Infants, children and adolescents exposed to adults with increased risk for latent TB or TB disease
Those at high risk for developing TB disease:
- People with HIV
- People infected with TB bacteria within last 2 years
- Babies & young children
- Individuals who inject illegal drugs
- People sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system
- Elderly individuals
- People not treated correctly for TB previously
TB testing can help determine whether they have been infected with the particular bacteria, allowing treatment to begin immediately.
There are two types of tests that can be performed; the TB Skin Test and the TB Blood Test.
- TB Skin Test: This test requires two visits – the first to administer the test, and the second to determine the results. In the first visit, a small amount of tuberculin fluid is injected into the skin on the lower portion of the arm. Once you return in 48 to 72 hours, the healthcare provider will measure the size of the raised, hard area or swelling of the injection site. If positive, additional testing is required to determine the type of infection.
- TB Blood Test: These may also be referred to as interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs). Basically, a simple blood sample is drawn and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This test is typically performed for those who have already received the TB vaccine, or are unable to return for the second appointment involved in the skin test.
In many instances, people with a positive result are infected with latent TB, meaning they have no symptoms and are not contagious, but could still develop the disease if left untreated. If the full disease does develop, it could result in a bad cough with blood, chest pain, weakness, weight loss, and more. Further testing can help determine whether they have been infected with the particular bacteria, allowing treatment to begin immediately.
Proper treatment is vital. Medications must be taken until completed and exactly as prescribed. Stopping the medications too soon could result in becoming sick again, or creating bacteria that is resistant to the drugs, causing the treatments to become more complicated and more expensive.
If you or someone you know falls within one of the high-risk categories, it is imperative to have a TB test performed. Not only is testing taking an active step towards a healthier you, but you are also being proactive in protecting those around you. Whether you need the skin test or blood test, visit us today.