Pneumonia vs Tuberculosis (TB) – Differences, Symptoms, Causes

Pneumonia is inflammation of the airspaces in the lungs, typically because of an infection.

Most people get this condition in winter because other infections (like – flu) which spread easily from individual to individual are more common in the winter and catching flu can increase the chance of developing this condition.

Before the 1930s, it was a primary cause of death. However, it has since become very treatable, but it still remains a public health problem.

For instance, it accounts for about 16 percent of all deaths of children under 5 years old.


Common symptoms include:

  • fatigue;
  • chest pain when you breathe;
  • diarrhea;
  • a cough, that may produce phlegm;
  • shortness of breath;
  • changes in mental awareness;
  • nausea;
  • fever;
  • vomiting.

Rare symptoms include:

  • headaches;
  • coughing up blood;
  • joint pain;
  • muscle pain;
  • wheezing.


It comes in different forms and is caused by bacteria or viruses, fungi, or parasites. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia (BP) is Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium. It is less contagious than a cold, due to the fact that most people’s immune systems can kill it before it causes an infection.

Viral pneumonia (VP) is caused by the influenza virus. It may be severe and occasionally fatal. Also, you can get this condition in one or both lungs. Healthcare professionals call this “walking pneumonia.”

Some individuals are more likely to get this lung condition or develop a more severe form, including:

  • people over 65;
  • smokers and second-hand smokers;
  • babies and young children;
  • patients in the hospital;
  • people with kidney, heart, or liver disease;
  • people with intellectual disabilities at risk of aspiration;
  • people who drink excessive alcoholic beverages;
  • people with cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchiectasis, influenza, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • people who are taking drugs that suppress the immune system or with a weak immune system due to various reasons.


To diagnose this condition, your healthcare professional will perform a physical exam, review your medical history, and order diagnostic tests.

For instance, a urine test can identify the bacteria Legionella pneumophila and Streptococcus pneumoniae, and a blood test can confirm an infection.


Antibiotics are commonly used to treat BP or fungal infection. Treatment also involves – drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread by an individual breathing in droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or coughs.

It generally affects the lungs (PTB), however, other parts of the body can be affected (lymph nodes, the brain, bones, kidneys, and joints).

There are two types – active and latent. If you have the active form, you can spread the disease to others and have symptoms. If you have the latent form, you cannot spread the disease to others and do not have symptoms.

It kills more than 1.6 million people a year. It is deadly, especially in developing countries.


Common symptoms include:

  • unexplained weight loss;
  • chest pains;
  • feel tired;
  • swollen lymph glands;
  • cough up blood in the sputum;
  • having a fever, especially at night;
  • a bad cough that lasts at least 21 days.

Tip – these signs and symptoms can occur with other conditions, hence, it is essential to see a doctor and to let him diagnose your condition.


The bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes this lung condition. When someone with untreated TB sneezes or coughs, the air is filled with droplets containing this pathogenic bacteria.

Inhaling these droplets is the normal way an individual gets TB. Nevertheless, you cannot get it from the sharing of eating utensils, cups, cigarettes or saliva as well as from kissing.

When this bacterium attacks the lungs, the condition is called pulmonary tuberculosis (TB). It can also spread from the lungs to other organs.


The leading risk factors for this lung condition include:

  • young children with not fully developed immune systems are at the highest risk of developing the most severe forms of this condition;
  • people with a weak immune system, especially HIV or AIDS sufferers;
  • silicosis, a lung disease caused by breathing in silica dust;
  • people with type 2 diabetes;
  • people who have spent time in a correctional facility;
  • individuals with substance use problems;
  • homeless people;
  • seniors;
  • people who have suffered from malnutrition.


The diagnosis of TB usually involves a chest x-ray and skin testing.


You must take antibiotics for 6 to 9 months. The length of treatment and the exact medicines depend on your overall health, age, the form of TB, possible drug resistance, and the infection’s location in your body.

In the present day, there are 10 drugs approved by the FDA for treating this condition, including:

  • ethambutol (EMB) – it is typically given in combination with rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide;
  • pyrazinamide (PZA) – it is used for the active form and it is used together with isoniazid, rifampin, and ethambutol;
  • rifampin (RIF) –  it may be used to reduce certain harmful bacteria in the throat and nose which could cause meningitis or other infections;
  • isoniazid (INH) – it is an antibiotic and works by stopping the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Occasionally, antibiotics used to treat this condition don’t work. Healthcare specialists call this “drug-resistant” TB. Patients with this type of TB need to take stronger drugs and for a longer amount of time.

Because some studies have shown that BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) is not very good in preventing TB cases, this vaccine is very rarely used in the US.

Pneumonia vs Tuberculosis (TB) – Differences

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a pathogenic bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium commonly attacks the lungs, however, it can also damage other parts of the body. Symptoms of TB may include:

  • fatigue;
  • weakness;
  • night sweats;
  • a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer;
  • fever;
  • coughing up mucus or blood;
  • loss of appetite;
  • weight loss.

Pneumonia is a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection of one or both sides of the lungs which causes the air sacs of the lungs to fill up with pus or fluid. This condition only affects the lungs.

Common symptoms may include:

  • a cough which frequently produces yellow or green sputum;
  • diarrhea;
  • vomiting;
  • nausea;
  • a rapid heartbeat;
  • pain with breathing;
  • shortness of breath;
  • fever;
  • chills.

Images credit – Shutterstock & Getty

READ THIS NEXT: Interesting Facts About Lymphoma


Leave a Comment