Tuberculosis treatment usually requires the use of several different antibiotics that must be taken for at least six months. Occasionally, the medications used for tuberculosis may cause side effects such as orange urine, sensitivity to the sun, and reduced effectiveness of birth control pills and implants. If more serious side effects occur, contact your doctor immediately.
An Overview of Tuberculosis Medication
In most people, medication will cure tuberculosis if the correct drugs are taken for the right amount of time. Tuberculosis treatment usually combines several different antibiotic medications that are given for at least 6 months, and sometimes for as long as 12 months. This is because there are many tuberculosis bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that need to be killed.
Taking several medicines will do a better job of killing all of the bacteria, and will also help prevent them from becoming resistant to the medicines (see Drug-Resistant TB).
Specific Medicines Used for Tuberculosis
The most common drugs used for active tuberculosis are:
- Isoniazid (INH)
- Rifampin (RIF)
For a person with latent tuberculosis, treatment usually consists of taking isoniazid for at least six months.
Side Effects of Tuberculosis Drugs
Occasionally, the medications used to treat tuberculosis may cause side effects. Some side effects cause minor problems; others are much more serious. If you have a serious side effect from your medications, call your doctor or nurse immediately. You may be told to stop taking your medicine or to return to the clinic for tests.
Minor side effects of tuberculosis medications can include:
- Orange urine, saliva, or tears. The doctor or nurse may advise you not to wear soft contact lenses because they may get stained.
- Sensitivity to the sun. This means you should use a good sunscreen, and cover exposed areas so you don't burn.
- Reduced effectiveness of birth control pills and implants. Women who take rifampin should use another form of birth control.
Serious side effects from TB medications may include, but are not are limited to:
- No appetite
- Yellowish skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Fever for three or more days
- Abdominal pain
- Tingling fingers or toes
- Skin rash
- Easy bleeding
- Aching joints
- Tingling or numbness around the mouth
- Easy bruising
- Blurred or changed vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Hearing loss.
Drinking alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and liquor) while taking isoniazid can be dangerous. Check with your doctor or nurse for more information.