Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that typically affects the lungs, though it can also involve other body parts. When it affects the lungs, it’s called pulmonary TB. TB outside of the lung is called extrapulmonary TB.

It can also be categorized as being either active or latent. Active TB is contagious and causes symptoms. Latent TB, on the other hand, doesn’t cause symptoms and isn’t contagious.

Read on to learn more about the different types of TB, including several types of extrapulmonary TB.

TB can be active or latent. Active TB is sometimes referred to as TB disease. This is the type of TB that’s contagious.

Active TB

Active TB, sometimes called TB disease, causes symptoms and is contagious. The symptoms of active TB vary depending on whether it’s pulmonary or extrapulmonary.

But general symptoms of active TB include:

Active TB can be life-threatening if not properly treated.

Latent TB

If you have latent TB infection, you have TB bacteria in your body, but it’s inactive. This means you don’t experience any symptoms. You also aren’t contagious. Still, you’ll have a positive result from TB blood and skin tests.

Latent TB can turn into active TB in 5 to 10 percent of people. This risk is higher for those with a weakened immune system due to medication or an underlying condition.

Pulmonary TB is active TB that involves the lungs. It’s likely what most people think of when they hear tuberculosis.

You contract it by breathing in air exhaled by someone who has TB. The germs can remain in the air for several hours.

Along with the general symptoms of TB, a person with pulmonary TB may also experience:

  • persistent cough lasting three weeks or longer
  • coughing up blood
  • coughing up phlegm
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath

Extrapulmonary TB is TB that involves parts of the body outside of the lungs, such as the bones or organs. Symptoms depend on the part of the body affected.

TB lymphadenitis

TB lymphadenitis is the most common type of extrapulmonary TB and involves the lymph nodes.

It tends to affect the the cervical lymph nodes, which are the lymph nodes in your neck. But any lymph node can be affected.

Swollen lymph nodes may be the only symptom you notice. But TB lymphadenitis can also cause:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss
  • night sweats

Skeletal TB

Skeletal TB, or bone TB, is TB that spreads to your bones from your lungs or lymph nodes. It can affect any of your bones, including your spine and joints.

While skeletal TB is rare, it’s been on the rise in some countries with high rates of HIV transmission and AIDS, which both weaken your immune system.

Initially, skeletal TB doesn’t cause symptoms. But over time, it can cause general active TB symptoms in addition to:

  • severe back pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling
  • abscesses
  • bone deformities

Miliary TB

Miliary TB is a form of TB that spreads in your the body, affecting one or several organs. This type of TB often affects the lungs, bone marrow, and liver. But it can also spread to other parts of the body, including the spinal cord, brain, and heart.

Military TB causes general active TB symptoms in addition to other symptoms, depending on the body parts involved. For example, if your bone marrow is affected, you may have a low red blood cell count or a rash.

Genitourinary TB

Genitourinary TB is the second most common type of extrapulmonary TB. It can affect any part of the genitals or urinary tract, but the kidneys are the most common sites. It usually spreads to the area from the lungs through the blood or lymph nodes.

Genitourinary TB can be spread through intercourse, though this is rare.

People with this type of TB often develop a tuberculous ulcer on the penis or in the genital tract.

Other symptoms of genitourinary TB depend on the parts affected and may include:

  • testicular swelling
  • painful urination
  • decreased or interrupted flow of urine
  • pelvic pain
  • back pain
  • decreased semen volume
  • infertility

Liver TB

Liver TB is also called hepatic TB. It occurs when TB affects the liver. It accounts for less than 1 percent of all TB infections.

Liver TB can spread to the liver from the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, or the portal vein.

Symptoms of liver TB include:

Gastrointestinal TB is a TB infection that involves any part of the gastrointestinal tract, which extends from the mouth to the anus. This type of TB causes symptoms similar to other gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease.

Gastrointestinal TB

Symptoms of gastrointestinal TB depend on the area of the tract infected and may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • an abdominal mass you can feel

TB meningitis

Also known as meningeal tuberculosis, TB meningitis spreads to the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

TB can spread to the meninges from the lungs or through the bloodstream. Unlike other types of meningitis that develop quickly, TB meningitis usually develops gradually.

It often causes vague symptoms in the beginning, including:

  • aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • persistent headache
  • low-grade fever
  • nausea and vomiting

As the condition progresses, it can also bring on:

  • severe headachess
  • sensitivity to light
  • neck stiffness

TB peritonitis

TB peritonitis is TB that causes inflammation of the peritoneum, which is a layer of tissue that covers the inside of your abdomen and most of its organs.

It affects 3.5 percent of people with pulmonary TB and as many as 58 percent of people with abdominal TB.

Ascites and fever are the most common symptoms of TB peritonitis. Ascites is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen that causes abdominal swelling, bloating, and tenderness.

Other symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite

TB pericarditis

TB pericarditis occurs when TB spreads to the pericardium. This consists of two thin layers of tissue separated by fluid that surround the heart and hold it in place.

It can present as different types of pericarditis, including constrictive pericarditis, pericardial effusion, or effusive-constrictive pericarditis.

Symptoms of TB pericarditis include:

  • chest pain
  • fever
  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
TB or heart attack?

Chest pain or pressure, especially when accompanied by shortness of breath or nausea, is a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 if you experience chest pain or other warning signs of a heart attack.

Cutaneous TB

Cutaneous TB affects the skin. It’s very rare, even in countries where TB is common. There are several different types of cutaneous TB, and it can spread to other parts of the body.

The main symptoms of cutaneous TB are usually sores or lesions in different areas, particularly the:

  • elbows
  • hands
  • buttocks
  • area behind the knees
  • feet

These lesions may be:

  • flat and painless
  • purplish or brownish-red
  • wart-like in appearance
  • small bumps
  • ulcers
  • abscesses

Different tests are used to diagnose TB, but a healthcare provider will usually start by checking for swollen lymph nodes and listening to someone’s breathing with a stethoscope.

Next, they’ll likely do some additional testing to determine whether someone has active or latent TB.

Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST)

TST is performed by injecting a small amount of tuberculin into the skin of the forearm. The skin will be monitored for a reaction 48 to 72 hours after the injection.

A positive skin test indicates that TB bacteria is present, and additional tests are needed to determine if it’s active or latent.

Blood tests

Blood tests can help to confirm or rule out active or latent TB. The tests measure your immune system’s reaction to TB bacteria.

There are two blood tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration for TB:

  • T-SPOT TB test (T-Spot)
  • QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube test (QFT-GIT).

Imaging tests

Following a positive skin test, a healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray or CT scan. These tests produce images that may show changes in the lungs caused by active TB.

Sputum tests

Sputum is the mucus that comes up when you cough. Healthcare providers sometimes collect sputum samples and test them for different strains of TB bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant types.

The results of sputum tests are helpful in choosing the best course of treatment.

There are many types of TB and ways of testing for them.

If there’s any chance you’ve been exposed to TB-causing bacteria, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. TB can become life-threatening if left untreated, but most people make a full recovery with quick treatment.