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Is TB the cause of fluid around my lungs (pleural effusion)?

Answered by: Dr Sai Praveen Haranath

Senior Consultant Pulmonologist & Critical Care Specialist,Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, India

Q. I am a 26 years old man suffering from fever for the last one month. I got pleural effusion in my right lung. One and a half years back, I had pneumonia. Is pleural effusion due to tuberculosis? If yes, I am undergoing treatment for the last one month. I need to travel to America. The doctor has suggested that I go after two months of treatment. Is it ok?

A.  If you have a pleural effusion or fluid collection around the lung the cause should be diagnosed. Often the fluid has to be sampled to confirm the cause. Pneumonia by itself can cause fluid collection and TB is one of the causes but other infections also cause pleural effusion. Sometimes treatment for TB is done without clear evidence if the clinical situation suggests it. In that situation complete treatment is needed and if things do not improve alternate causes should be explored. At the same time, you should meet with your physician to make sure you are improving with the current treatment. Often there is lung tuberculosis along with pleural TB and you should make sure you are not infectious before traveling. This may need special tests of the sputum or phlegm for example. Kindly share this information with your treating provider.

A.  If you have a pleural effusion or fluid collection around the lung the cause should be diagnosed. Often the fluid has to be sampled to confirm the cause. Pneumonia by itself can cause fluid collection and TB is one of the causes but other infections also cause pleural effusion. Sometimes treatment for TB is done without clear evidence if the clinical situation suggests it. In that situation complete treatment is needed and if things do not improve alternate causes should be explored. At the same time, you should meet with your physician to make sure you are improving with the current treatment. Often there is lung tuberculosis along with pleural TB and you should make sure you are not infectious before traveling. This may need special tests of the sputum or phlegm for example. Kindly share this information with your treating provider.

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