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What is Pott's Disease?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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As a form of extrapulmonary tuberculosis that impacts the spine, Pott's disease has an effect that is sometimes described as being a sort of arthritis for the vertebrae that make up the spinal column. More properly known as tuberculosis spondylitis, it was first named after Dr. Percivall Pott, an 18th century surgeon who was considered an authority in issues related to the back and spine.

Pott's disease is often experienced as a local phenomenon that begins in the thoracic section of the spinal column. Early signs generally begin with back pain that may seem to be due to simple muscle strain, but the symptoms will quickly begin to multiply. Night sweats may become common, along with a running a fever during the day. As the condition worsens, it is not unusual to experience a loss of appetite, resulting in an anorexic state and the resulting weight loss. There are also often periods in which there is a tingling or numb sensation in the legs, accompanied with a sense of not having much strength in them.

Fortunately, there are several ways to determine if tuberculosis spondylitis is the root cause of the symptoms. Blood tests can help determine if there is an elevation in the rate of erythrocyte sedimentation. A bone scan will determine if there is some indication of problems, which may lead to the scheduling of a bone biopsy. Conducting a CT scan as well as a radiograph of the spine is also likely to provide valuable information about the presence and current status of the disease.

Once the presence of Pott's disease is confirmed, there are several treatment options available. The first line of defense will involve the use of analgesics and various antituberculous drugs, which can help to arrest the progress of the disease, as well as begin to alleviate symptoms. In some cases, it may be necessary to insert a rod into the area of the spine, providing needed stability. This is often the case if some degree of spinal cord compression has been noted. More ambitious surgery may be required, especially in situations where there is a need to drain fluid from pockets or abscesses that have formed, or if conditions indicate impending collapse of the vertebrae in the spinal column.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon994457 — On Feb 10, 2016

Proper treatment is necessary in the initial stage, otherwise the after effects are dangerous as paralysis in the lower part of the body or a hump on your back, which looks disgusting. Regular body check ups and blood tests will help the patient to get rid of this disease. Never stop the ATT course until your doctor advises you. A proper diet is necessary to fight with this disease specially proteins.

Along with the ATT course, a patient should take a calcium tablet, folic acid and vitamin D3. Calcium is necessary because the ATT course reduces the amount of calcium in the patient's body. In exceptional cases, an ATT course can last up to two years.

One of the reasons people get infections is a poor immune system. The diet must include a good amount of proteins to fight back, not only for the patient, but the family members as well so that they don't get infected. It can be communicable if present in the lungs. The patient should wear a taylor brace belt for support and prevent further damage to the spine. What the ATT course does is to create a tub or tube on the bacteria, and the medication operates by interfering with bacteria reproduction to prevent its growth and stop the spread of infection. This will allow the immune system to fight and destroy it naturally to cure your condition. The development or progression of neurologic deficits, spinal deformity, or intractable pain should be considered evidence of poor therapeutic response. This raises the possibility of antimicrobial drug resistance, as well as the necessity for surgery.

Because of the risk of deformity, children with Pott's disease should undergo long-term follow-up until their entire growth potential is completed. Older patients can also present with late-onset complications such as reactivation, instability, or deformity. Observation is warranted in all groups of patients.

Consultations in Pott's disease can include the following: Orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and rehabilitation teams.

By anon993958 — On Jan 02, 2016

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Pott's disease. I am 15 and it has been really hard. We have been trying everything and have been trying a ton of different doctors. Sometime in the next few weeks I will be going from North Carolina to Maryland to Johns Hopkins. It has been really hard.

By anon946012 — On Apr 16, 2014

I had lower and upper back pain for over three years, but it wasn’t consistent. Doctors suggested I use pain killers, muscle relaxants, ointments, physiotherapy, etc., thinking that it was myofacial pain or muscle imbalance.

In the third year it got worse, and I started getting heavy back pain in my lower back and upper back, and I couldn’t bend properly or do any activity. And it got so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I had a sharp, stabbing pain towards the right side of my lower back. It felt almost like I was being stabbed with a big knife if I tried to move.

I traveled to a country with better medical setups. There I got an MRI, CT and X-rays done and was diagnosed with potts spine/spinal tuberculosis. The results showed I had first, D1- D2 collapsed vertebrae with bony ankylosis. Second, I had anterior wedge collapse D4 vertebrae. Third, an abscess collection was seen at L1- L2 vertebrae extending to 300ml accumulation of psoas abscess compressing the right kidney. Fourth, I had a diffuse disc bulge noted at L2-L3-L4-L5-S1 and fifth, lumbarization of S1.

I had surgery done to remove the psoas abscess and was put on anti tuberculosis medicines. Spine stabilisation was not performed, and I only had minor surgery to remove the abscess. I was advised bed rest for four months, along with small leg exercises three months after the surgery.

It’s been eight months since the surgery and medication and I still have some pain in my upper back and stiffness in my lower back, but I am able to manage the pain. I am moving around, going to college, meeting friends, driving, etc. I’ll be meeting the doctor this month end for my review, and I hope my results show great improvements.

To those who are suffering: there's always hope, so never give up.

By anon281557 — On Jul 24, 2012

My cousin's husband has been diagnosed with Potts Disease. He wears a heart monitor. I only get to see them once a year and that's on Christmas.

From what I have been told about this disease, it's awful that it even affects people. But he has passed out several different times and he has rapid heart rate when he stands. At first he wasn't able to do anything at all, but lie in bed. He had to be under someone's care for a while. Now he can help fold laundry and can now sit in the shower to spray off.

It breaks my heart hearing of these things. He is a Christian and a very kind person. I pray God touches him and heals him. My prayers go out to every being who suffers from this disease.

By anon184510 — On Jun 08, 2011

where do we get this sickness -- in the food or in the drinks? is there any cure for this?

By anon151936 — On Feb 12, 2011

I'm diagnosed with pott's disease by MRI but when it comes to my x-ray it wasn't pott's disease. I've experienced back pain but i never got night sweats, fever or any symptoms but back pain. I'm really worried of what might happen to me. I'm now under medication and I'm wearing a back brace.

I can still walk. i really don't know what to do. I'm 22 years old I'm already a college grad. and i took one semester in law but i stopped just to treat this disease. is the MRI test accurate to tell that it is pott's disease? i really don't feel weakened.

By anon150031 — On Feb 06, 2011

I had Potts disease over 10 years ago and was blessed to have recovered with little side affects. Although it is always in the back of my mind when I'm out in public and someone coughs on me. I did 2 1/2 years of the TB meds and lots of praying and crying.

I lived alone at the time and my mother had passed. But God is so very good and saw it in his grace and mercy to spare me. Please know you too can make it through as long as you allow God to continue to hold your hand! Blessings from "Potts Free in KY"!!

By anon146060 — On Jan 25, 2011

It is likely I have Potts Disease, testing is still going on. I have many rotten teeth and broken teeth and don't have the money to fix. can dental health play a part in acquiring viral meningitis or Pott's Disease? my lumbar area is so painful. i was diagnosed with viral meningitis six weeks ago.

By anon129642 — On Nov 24, 2010

my mother died because of that disease. she suffered for almost four months. the doctor didn't say its dangerous. maybe because we have no money to get that proper medication for my mother, and it became a bone cancer, so if anyone has this disease please make yourself aware. God will help you -- just believe in him. --yumi

By anon119277 — On Oct 17, 2010

I had Potts disease when I was three - was in the hospital for 10 years. the only thing I can remember is having a brace up to my neck and a scar on my leg and back. My mother never talked to me about this. I am now 81 years old and in very good health, but I would like to know what happened.

By anon113809 — On Sep 26, 2010

My son had pott's disease at two years of age. First in the gland, lung, and then back. hard to diagnose according to doctors who came up with everything but tuberculosis. diagnosis such as muscle weakness, adenoiditis, Refractive air disease, right middle lobe syndrome are just a few.

By anon76194 — On Apr 09, 2010

Doctors cannot use blood tests to confirm. She has worn a heart monitor or a harness and confirmed the suspicion of Pots disease.

However they are going to put her in hospital for 48 hours to monitor the brain. She is 12 years old and has passed out and fallen down stairs doing damage to her front teeth. a very frustrating situation.

By anon60055 — On Jan 11, 2010

Is pott's disease a communicable disease because as of now my auntie had a pott's disease. i'm very worried about that if it is communicable.

By anon42649 — On Aug 22, 2009

With TB being a core problem with potts discease, is it necessary for anyone who has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed be tested for TB.

By anon39063 — On Jul 30, 2009

is it possible that we can acquire pott's disease without having pulmonary tuberculosis?

By almas — On Jan 13, 2009

is pott's disease completely curable? does the patient need to be admitted to the hospital for the same?

By mdt — On May 31, 2008

Pott's disease is normally considered to be a non-communicable form of TB. As to whether pulmonary TB can be a trigger or cause for Pott's disease, I am not aware of any research that currently indicates this is the case. You may want to speak with a healthcare professional on that one to be sure.

By anon12674 — On May 11, 2008

when can the patient be considered non-communicable? can pulmonary TB be the root cause?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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