Tuberculosis is an insidious disease. The early symptoms are usually not very noticeable or troublesome. There is seldom pain, that great alarm clock of the system, to warn the victim of danger. The disease unfolds so slowly that one can hardly put his finger on the day, or the week, or the month, or even the year which separates good health from poor.
Herein lies one of its greatest dangersthat the process will be so far advanced before it is recognized that treatment will be rendered prolonged and sometimes futile.
But there are other things which stand in the way of its recognition. One is the feeling many people, have that it is somehow a disgrace to have tuberculosis. And the other is the dread of the disease. Of course there is nothing in either of those. It is no more shameful to have tuberculosis than to have measles. And a person with tuberculosis is no longer a pariah to be shunned by or to shun his fellow men. And there are few diseases, no chronic diseases, for which there is so much hope from proper treatment.
Of all diseases, then, it is the one of which everyone should know the early symptoms and be prepared to recognize them in his or her own person.
Fatigue probably is the earliest symptom and the one most difficult to evaluate. Everyone is fatigued sometimes. Everyone is often fatigued without reason. Fatigue is also a symptom of many diseasesin fact, of nearly all diseases. When, then, does it mean tuberculosis?
The fatigue of tuberculosis is an abnormal fatigueoverpowering, an aching fatigue, numbing all the fibers and senses of the body. It comes on irrespective of any previous effort or activity.
Besides its quality it should be suspicious that fatigue occurs often in a young person. Another point is fatigue in a young person who is underweight and generally under par.
Other early symptoms include gradual loss of weight, or stationary underweight. People from 20 to 30 normally should very slowly increase in weight. Or at least be well within the proper weight limits and stationary.
An attack of pleurisy always is to be regarded with suspicion as indicative of the onset of tuberculosis. This is especially true of pleurisy with the accumulation of fluid in the chest, but is also true of the so-called dry pleurisy.
Spitting of blood, or a gush of blood from the lungs into the mouth (hemorrhage) may be an early, indeed, the first, symptom of the disease. It is a terrifying experience, but it may be the luckiest thing that can happen because it is sufficiently sudden and awe-inspiring that the person who has it will know something is wrong and seek medical advice.