Tuberculosis treatment | Better Health Channel
Better Health Channel on twitter Connect with us via Twitter and share Australia's best health and medical info with those close to you
Close survey
Tuberculosis treatment

Summary

Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) takes six to nine months and sometimes longer. The tablets you take may cause some side effects such as itchiness or an upset stomach. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis could become resistant to treatment if you do not take your medication regularly. Avoid drinking alcohol while on tuberculosis treatment.

Download the PDF version of this fact sheet Email this fact sheet

Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) takes six to nine months and sometimes longer. TB can be cured in almost all cases by taking the medications as prescribed by your doctor for the full course of treatment (at least six months).

Like all medications, your anti-tuberculosis tablets can cause side effects. Your doctor will monitor your progress during treatment to make sure the medication is working. This will usually involve blood, sputum or urine tests and chest x-rays.

Tell your doctor immediately if you experience illness or symptoms


It is important to tell your doctor or health care worker immediately if you experience any unexplained illness or the following symptoms:
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice – yellowish skin or eyes, dark urine (orange/red urine is a normal side effect and is not harmful)
  • Unexplained fever or tiredness
  • Tingling or numbness of hands or feet, or joint pains
  • Skin rash, itching skin or bruising
  • Visual changes or change in red-green colour vision.

Side effects of specific tuberculosis medications


The different medications used to treat tuberculosis are associated with specific side effects:
  • Isoniazid – may make you feel tired or nauseous or make you lose your appetite. It can cause numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, but this is rare in well-nourished people.
  • Rifampicin – can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill and some other medications. It is important to advise the doctor who prescribes your TB treatment about any other medicines you are taking. Women taking the contraceptive pill may need to discuss other forms of contraception with their general practitioner or an advisor at a family planning clinic. If you have lens implants or wear soft contact lenses, inform your doctor, as rifampicin can stain them. Rifampicin will cause a pinkish/orange discolouration of your urine, saliva and sweat. This side effect is harmless so you should not be concerned.
  • Ethambutol or Myambutol – can cause visual problems. Your eyesight will be checked during treatment, but you should stop taking the medication if your vision is affected and call your doctor straight away.
  • Pyrazinamide – can lead to nausea and a loss of appetite. It is usually only taken for the first two to three months of treatment. Consult with your doctor if you develop unexplained rashes, fever, aches or joint pains.

Some things to note when taking TB medications


When taking tuberculosis medications, it is important to be aware of a few basic cautions:
  • Report any side effects to your doctor immediately.
  • Tell your TB doctor about any other medications you are taking.
  • Medication must be taken for long enough to kill all of the tuberculosis bacteria – a minimum of six months.
  • Take your medications regularly and do not stop taking them, even when you feel better. Irregular use can lead to the tuberculosis bacteria becoming resistant to the medications.
  • Alcohol can increase drug side effects and toxicity, because both can affect the liver. Avoid drinking alcohol while on tuberculosis treatment.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit, Department of Health Victoria Tel. 1300 651 160

Things to remember

  • Take your medication regularly, for at least six months.
  • Immediately report any side effects to your doctor or health care worker.
  • Avoid alcohol during tuberculosis treatment.

You might also be interested in:

Want to know more?

Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.


This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

Department of Health logo

(Logo links to further information)


Department of Health logo

Last reviewed: April 2013

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.


If you would like to link to this fact sheet on your website, simply copy the code below and add it to your page:

<a href="http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Tuberculosis_treatment?open">Tuberculosis treatment - Better Health Channel</a><br/>
Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) takes six to nine months and sometimes longer. The tablets you take may cause some side effects such as itchiness or an upset stomach. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis could become resistant to treatment if you do not take your medication regularly. Avoid drinking alcohol while on tuberculosis treatment.



Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Copyight © 1999/2014  State of Victoria. Reproduced from the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) at no cost with permission of the Victorian Minister for Health. Unauthorised reproduction and other uses comprised in the copyright are prohibited without permission.

footer image for printing