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Latent TB treatment

latent tb treatmentWhat treatment do I need for latent TB?

A course of antibiotic medicine will treat latent TB. You may be given Rifampicin and Isoniazid for three months (which may be together in a tablet called Rifinah) or Isoniazid by itself for six months.

Your doctor or TB specialist nurse will talk you through the treatment and answer any questions you may have.

Is latent TB treatment safe?

As with all medicines, there may be side effects. Some are mild, while others may be more serious. Depending on the treatment you receive, you may experience the following side effects:

Rifinah (Rifampicin and Isoniazid in combination):

  • orange staining to tears, saliva, urine and other bodily fluids – this is not harmful but it may stain contact lenses
  • flu-like symptoms
  • menstrual disturbances
  • reduced effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives
  • tingling or numbness
  • rashes and itchiness
  • sickness or diarrhoea

Isoniazid:

  • tingling or numbness
  • rashes and itchiness
  • sickness or diarrhoea

I don’t feel ill so why should I take treatment for latent TB?Very rarely the medication can cause jaundice, which leads to yellowing of the skin or eyes. Isoniazid and Rifinah may affect your eyesight, but this is also rare. However, if you notice either of these side effects, stop taking your TB tablets and speak to a doctor or nurse immediately.

Prevention is better than cure. About 1 in 10 people with latent TB will develop active TB. And there is no way to know if you will be one of them. It is possible to become ill with active TB many years after you breathe in TB bacteria. Treatment is the only way to remove the TB bacteria from your body.

Latent TB treatment is often shorter than treatment for active TB, and it involves less medication. These are all good reasons to treat the latent TB bacteria while you are healthy and before they have a chance to wake up.

How do I take latent TB medication?

It is important that you take your medicine regularly and complete the full course, to make sure all TB bacteria are removed from your body.

Try to take your TB medicine at least one hour before you eat food or two hours afterwards. You can eat anything you like, but you should avoid drinking alcohol.

I am worried about getting treated for latent TB, but I don’t want to get ill?

You will receive support throughout your treatment from a doctor or TB specialist nurse. They will talk you through the treatment and answer any questions you may have. Once you have all the information you need, you will be able to decide whether treatment is the best option for you.

If you have started treatment, but are still have concerns, remember your doctor and nurse are there to help. Make sure you keep all your clinic appointments and tell your doctor or nurse any side effects you may have, or if you are having trouble to remember to take our medication – they will be able to help.

When I finish my treatment, will I be free of TB forever?

If you complete your treatment as prescribed, your risk of developing active TB is much lower. However, it is possible you could breathe in the TB bacteria again in future. The chances of this are low for most people, but is useful to know the most common symptoms of active TB so you can see your GP if you have any of them:

  • a cough which lasts for three weeks or longer
  • fever (a high temperature)
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • tiredness.
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