At PlatinumCare LA, we provide vaccines, testing and primary care for Tuberculosis concerns. TB can be a very serious infection or disease; however, not everyone who gets infected with the bacteria gets sick. Early recognition is critical for a patient with TB and for preventing the spread of TB. Our skilled and experienced health care professionals take the threat of TB seriously and provide through TB testing in Los Angeles.
TB Testing Overview
There are two methods to test for TB bacteria in the body: using the skin or blood. Both the TB skin test and TB blood test can only tell if a person has the TB bacteria in their body. It does not identify if someone has a latent (inactive) TB infection (LTBI) or TB disease. So if the results are positive on the first test, other methods like a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum (a thick fluid in the throat), are needed to see whether someone has a more serious from of TB.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacteria. It most commonly affects the lungs, but TB bacteria can affect any part of the body or organs like the kidney, spine and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick or contagious. All TB-related conditions are treatable if caught early enough.
TB is spread through the air from person to person. When a contagious person with TB bacteria in their lungs or throat coughs, speaks or sings, the bacteria becomes airborne and people nearby may breathe in these bacteria in the air and become infected too. Therefore, TB is not spread by kissing, sharing drinks, shaking hands, etc.
Why TB Testing is Important
The number of cases of Tuberculosis in the United States today is extremely low, but it is still present. Awareness of TB is very important to control the spread of the disease as it is life-threatening. Vaccination against TB is one of the most widely used vaccines in the US and many people have had the vaccine in their childhood. While the vaccine is very effective for preventing TB in children, it does not always protect adults from getting a TB lung infection. Most transmission happens between adults, so being able to identify and test for TB is important and life-saving.
History of TB
Throughout history, Tuberculosis had a number of names like consumption and the white plague; it killed many. It might sound like an old disease and a concern of the past, but it is still a large threat in other countries as it is estimated that a third of the world’s population is infected with TB. The introduction of a vaccine in 1921, and antibiotics and other treatments in the 1950’s, have significantly reduced the threat of the disease in the United States today.
When to Get TB Testing
There may be no symptoms of Tuberculosis, or they could be very similar to many other illnesses; so it is hard to know if TB is the cause. Those who are considered at higher risk for TB infection should get a test whether they have symptoms or not. This could include people who:
- Have been around someone with TB disease
- Are from a country where TB disease is common (places in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia)
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Work in health care with patients
- Live or work in settings like correctional facilities, nursing homes or homeless shelters
Questions to Ask your Doctor about TB Testing
- Should I get a TB test?
- Are my symptoms indicative of TB?
- How often should I get a TB test?
How to Prepare for TB Testing
- Know if you’ve ever been vaccinated against TB, look up immunization record if unsure
- Make a list of all the symptoms you currently have
- Write down all medications you are currently taking
- Tell your doctor if you fall under one of the risk-factor categories above
How a TB Test is Performed
The TB skin test will be able to tell if you’ve ever been exposed to Tuberculosis. A small amount of TB protein is injected under the top layer of skin in your forearm. If you’ve ever been exposed to TB, you will develop a red bump at the injection site within two days. Within this time, you’ll return to the doctor’s office to have a health care professional measure the reaction and determine the results of the test. This test only identifies if you’ve ever been exposed and it can’t tell whether the bacteria is active or contagious. Many people who have had the TB vaccine will react to this test even if they don’t have the disease.
The TB blood test is like any other blood test. Your health care provider will draw a small amount of blood and send it to a laboratory who will do analysis and send your doctor the results in a few days.
If either of these tests are positive, you may be asked to do additional chest x-rays and cough to provide a sputum (a thick fluid in the throat) sample for a culture test to determine if you have latent (inactive) TB infection or (active) TB disease.
If someone has latent TB infection they might be treated with medication as a preventive measure against TB disease. Anyone with a latent infection plus one or more risk-factors above will likely be given medication. If results show that someone has TB disease, they will be treated with medications. Your doctor will prescribe the best medications for you. All medications to treat latent TB infection or TB disease are taken over the course of three to nine months. It is extremely important that patients take these medications exactly as prescribed, as taking them incorrectly or stopping them early can cause them to become sick again, making their TB infection harder to treat.
Side effects are uncommon with the TB skin test, but they may include temporary:
- Rash, discomfort, itching at the injection site
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Allergic reaction
Both types of TB tests are safe, including for pregnant women. The potential, but rare, side effects listed above are the only risks of a TB test. The risks of undetected and untreated TB are much greater.
Although cases of Tuberculosis in the United States are relatively uncommon, the disease still exists. TB will remain largely preventable and curable as long as the awareness and use of TB vaccines and tests are maintained. TB vaccines and tests for high-risk patients are essential for proactive health care.
TB Testing at PlatinumCare LA
We at PlatinumCare LA offer TB tests and vaccines. We aim to educate and raise awareness about Tuberculosis. Our doctors are highly-trained to detect risk factors in patients and recommend TB testing to those who need it. Then, they provide detailed screening and any necessary primary treatment. For TB testing in Los Angeles, contact us at PlatinumCare LA.