If you have latent TB, your doctor might recommend treatment with medication if you're at high risk of developing active TB. For active tuberculosis, you must take antibiotics for at least six to nine months.
The exact drugs and length of treatment depend on your age, overall health, possible drug resistance and where the infection is in your body.
Most common TB drugs
If you have latent tuberculosis, you might need to take only one or two types of TB drugs. Active tuberculosis, particularly if it's a drug-resistant strain, will require several drugs at once. The most common medications used to treat tuberculosis include:
- Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
- Ethambutol (Myambutol)
If you have drug-resistant TB, a combination of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones and injectable medications, such as amikacin or capreomycin (Capastat), are generally used for 20 to 30 months. Some types of TB are developing resistance to these medications as well.
Some drugs might be added to therapy to counter drug resistance, including:
- Bedaquiline (Sirturo)
- Linezolid (Zyvox)
Medication side effects
Serious side effects of TB drugs aren't common but can be dangerous when they do occur. All tuberculosis medications can be toxic to your liver. When taking these medications, call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- A yellow color to your skin (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Blurred vision
Completing treatment is essential
After a few weeks, you won't be contagious and you might start to feel better. Don't stop taking your TB drugs — you must finish the full course of therapy and take the medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Stopping treatment too soon or skipping doses can allow the bacteria that are still alive to become resistant to those drugs, leading to TB that is much more dangerous and difficult to treat.
A program called directly observed therapy (DOT) can help people stick to their treatment regimen. A health care worker gives you your medication so that you don't have to remember to take it on your own.