Miliary tuberculosis

Miliary tuberculosis is a disseminated form of the disease where the bacteria enter the blood and spreads all over the body and grow in one or several organs.

There are small-sized spots that strikingly resemble tiny seeds scattered in various bodily tissues. This form of tuberculosis is considered serious and life-threatening.

The condition is rare among individuals with a normal immune system and likely to affect those who have compromised immune systems. Oftentimes, the bone marrow, lungs and liver can be affected, but can also spread to the spinal cord, lining of the heart and the brain.

What is the cause?

Miliary tuberculosis

Fever that lasts for several weeks and might be worse in the evening.

The main cause is the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. This strain is highly contagious and spreads if an individual carrying an active TB infection in the lung coughs or sneezes. The bacteria can stay airborne for a few hours.

If the bacteria are present in the body but the immune system can fight it, the infection is called latent TB. With this type, there are no symptoms and the individual is not contagious. In case the immune system ceases to work properly, the latent form can turn into the active TB where there are symptoms and the individual is contagious.

What are the signs?

The indications of miliary tuberculosis are generalized such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever that lasts for several weeks and might be worse in the evening
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Dry cough that might be streaked with blood
  • Shortness of breath that worsens over time
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Night sweats
  • Generalized feeling of being sick

In case other organs aside from the lungs are involved, the organs cease to function normally. This can lead to other symptoms such as reduced level of red blood cells if the bone marrow is affected or a distinctive rash if the skin is affected.


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