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Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs but can attack any part of the body such as kidney, spine or brain. The bacteria can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
TB is spread through the air from one person to another when the infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Most individuals that are infected with TB will never develop active disease.
A tuberculin skin test (TST) is a screening test that is an injection of a small amount of testing fluid (tuberculin PPD) into the inner surface of the forearm. After you receive a TST, you will need to return in 2 to 3 days, so the nurse can check your arm to read your test.
The nurse will look and feel for any measurable swelling in the area of the injection. The most common reasons adults may need a TST are for employment exams or school requirements.
When your skin test is read, your evaluation will include a discussion of your risk factors and symptoms for TB infection and disease. You will be referred back to your doctor for follow up care. Since the skin test is a screening test to see if you have had TB at some time in your life, your doctor may order additional tests to determine if TB is active now or is a past infection.