The early signs and symptoms of tuberculosis are often vague and non-specific making the diagnosis difficult. These general signs and symptoms are caused by tuberculosis at any site in the body:
- Failure to thrive with poor weight gain or weight loss. This may be first noticed when the child’s weight is plotted on the Road-to-Health Card.
- Feeling generally unwell with loss of appetite, apathy and fatigue (feeling weak and tired).
- A fever for more then 2 weeks, often with sweating, especially at night.
- Lymphadenopathy, especially in the neck. There may also be an enlarged liver and spleen.
The later signs of tuberculosis usually depend on which organ or organs are infected (e.g. meningitis or abdominal distension).
Suspecting tuberculosis is the first step in making the diagnosis.
Lymphadenopathy usually consists of a number of mildly tender or non-tender nodes stuck together (matted).
Phlyctenular conjunctivitis (a patch of conjunctivitis at the junction of the sclera and cornea) and erythema nodosum (raised, tender, purple patches on the shin) should always suggest TB.