Mycobacterial Infections: Care Instructions

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Mycobacteria are germs that cause a wide variety of infections, including tuberculosis (TB), bone infections, abscesses, and a type of arthritis. They can infect the lungs, lymph nodes, skin, and other parts of the body. They can also infect open wounds.

Mycobacteria often infect people who have immune system problems. Depending on where the infection is in the body, some of the symptoms are fever, weight loss, diarrhea, abscesses (pockets of pus), and cough.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may need to take medicine for a long time, sometimes for a couple of years and sometimes for the rest of your life. It is very important that you take the medicine exactly as directed for as long as it takes to clear up your infection or keep you healthy.
  • Depending on where the infection is, you may need surgery. For example, abscesses can be drained. Talk to your doctor about whether surgery is right for you.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are short of breath.
  • You have a new or worse cough.
  • You have worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse diarrhea.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You lose weight.
  • You have night sweats.
  • You do not get better as expected.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.