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What Causes Pott's Disease?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pott's disease, which is also known as Pott’s caries, David's disease, and Pott's curvature, is a medical condition of the spine. Individuals suffering from this condition typically experience back pain, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and anorexia. They may also develop a spinal mass, which results in tingling, numbness, or a general feeling of weakness in the leg muscles. Often, the pain associated with the disease causes the sufferer to walk in an upright and stiff position.

This condition is caused when the vertebrae become soft and collapse as the bone is destroyed, which is typically caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As a result, the person often develops kyphosis, a pronouned curvature in the upper back that results in a hunchback. This is often referred to as Pott's curvature. In some cases, an individual may also develop paralysis, referred to as Pott's paraplegia, when the spinal nerves become affected by the curvature.

A person with Pott's disease may experience additional complications as a result of the curvature. For example, an infection can more easily spread from the paravertebral tissue, which can cause abscesses to occur. Regardless of the complications that may occur, the disease is typically slow spreading and can last for months or years.

A person who has been diagnosed with this illness may have a variety of treatment options. He or she may use painkillers and antituberculous drugs to get the infection under control. It may also be necessary to immobilize the area of the spine affected by the disease, or the person may need to undergo surgery in order to drain any abscesses that may have formed or to stabilize the spine.

Since Pott's disease is caused by a bacterial infection, prevention is possible through proper control. The best method for preventing the disease is reduce or eliminate the spread of tuberculosis. In addition, testing this bacteria is an important preventative measure, as those who are positive for purified protein derivative (PPD) can take medication to prevent the disease from developing. A tuberculin skin test is the most common method used to screen for infection, though blood tests, bone scans, bone biopsies, and radiographs may also be used to confirm the disease.

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Discussion Comments

By anon933013 — On Feb 13, 2014

Do you know how much of a relief it is to read that people go through this also! I'm 24 and I caught Tuberculosis at work from a migrant who was active. I have since had optic neuritis (blind in left eye) and have had a chronic back problem only since catching the disease.

I am in pain 24/7. It never goes away, even with pain killers, etc. Nothing helps!

I had started TB treatment but found I was allergic to Isoniazid and my doctor finds it safer not to treat me. I just want this to stop and thank you all for sharing your info because this has helped. I'm always standing now; I need a brace sometimes. I lie on concrete and crack my back with a rolling pin and even going to the toilet is horrible. My bladder is so weak, when I do a number 2 it shoots pain all up my back to my neck.

I'm in Australia and the medical system here is hopeless as they only tested me for TB of the chest and no other form! Talk about lazy! They say the chances are slim of having other forms of TB? The chances of catching it were slim also, but now I have it for the rest of my life.

By anon335701 — On May 22, 2013

I had Pott's Disease from age 6 to age 33. Years of drugs, surgeries, spinal fusion, etc. did nothing to arrest the disease which, in my case, was accompanied with recurring massive abdominal abscesses.

I was cured at age 33 by a naturopathic doctor who delivered a series of massive amounts of intravenous vitamin C and a one-time injection of vitamin C as close to the source of the problem as he could get. Within a week or two, all signs of the illness were gone. I just turned 63 years old and, aside from some residual abdominal muscle weakness, have had no further issues with the disease.

By anon328947 — On Apr 06, 2013

I was suffering from night sweats and back and chest pains for more than a month before I was diagnosed with pott's disease. They did all kinds of laboratory exams before they finally saw that it was pott's disease. After the MRI, CT scan with biopsy and bone marrow tests, I was diagnosed with the disease and was immediately given medications for TB.

I had experienced paralysis when I was in the hospital and numbness from my feet up to the chest. I was not able to walk and needed a catheter just to release urine because of the numbness.

For the past 10 months, I've been wearing a brace to support my spine whenever I am sitting or standing. I have to undergo physical therapy for months and learn how to walk again. The pain was gone after seven months and I am no longer using pain relievers.

With daily exercise and proper diet, I am now regaining my strength to walk slowly. With the help of the walker, crutches and cane, gradually I managed to regain my balance. The doctor said it can take a year or more to recover from the disease and I'm glad that I am now recovering. I was also treated with medicines for my liver and my regular dose of insulin because I am diabetic. With God's grace I am able to stand and walk again as I fight with this disease.

By anon306893 — On Dec 02, 2012

I have been diagnosed with Potts disease. I got it when I was 11. Now I am 13, but still suffering from permanent back pain and have to wear a brace.

By anon290674 — On Sep 10, 2012

Can you catch potts disease during sex or kissing or through any kind of contact?

By anon270482 — On May 22, 2012

I just recently stopped treatment for potts disease. I guess I was lucky I listened to my friend and went to the hospital because of the pain in my back. I was diagnosed with TB and they put me on the medication. They also but me on a strong antibiotic. I do have weakness in the legs so I use a wheelchair when I go out. Otherwise, I am O.K.

By anon250095 — On Feb 24, 2012

I was told I have Pott's disease. I am only 17 but have a lot of other medical problems -- too many to say. My life is going downhill. It feels like I am dying and I feel alone, like no one is going through what I am. Then I read these comments and I was thinking, wow some people have it worse than I do.

By anon239236 — On Jan 08, 2012

My father has had mdr tb since he was about 40 years old and now his X-ray is stable. He was lately diagnosed with pott's disease in t8 and t9 and with the other region, he is wearing a spinal brace now. We don't know how long the treatment would last. I'm worried.

By anon209594 — On Aug 27, 2011

I was suffering from Potts Disease, and got it cured after long duration regulation medication. After recovering, I have become overweight. How do I get back to normal shape. I have been doing exercises regularly.

By anon156728 — On Feb 28, 2011

Can Pott's disease be a genetic disease? I have heard that it comes at puberty for some people, but all the posts I have read here say three years and up and that it is a bacterial infection?

By anon135345 — On Dec 18, 2010

I myself was diagnosed with pott's disease. I had back pain but I didn't bother with it at first because I thought it was just stress due to overwork.

I was just shocked that the pain was not gone for months. Day after day the pain gets worse and i cannot sleep every night and my posture became hunchbacked.

I'm so unlucky because no one believed me at that time. Every time I complained, they thought I was just joking and acting as if. They just gave me attention when they saw me in hunchback from.

So we go to the city where there is a hospital and i had an operation there and they put titanium in my back for the replacement of the bone that had gone in my back.

I hate this life. I'll just try to accept the fact even though it hurts. My problem is it is now hunchback and no one can turn back the time. I miss my old posture and my old life. I'm just now living in a simple life due to my illness. The fact is that there are some things that we cannot change. I'll just find a way to accept this illness even though I'm unlucky. I'll just move on and I just don't want to think much about my situation because it makes me more sick.

By anon130817 — On Nov 30, 2010

My son who is turning three this coming december was diagnosed with Potts disease! At first i thought it was normal for him not to walk at the age of 1 1/2 years old, but a few months later he was already in pain in his legs, and then we started to get bothered regarding this matter.

he had an mri, which said nothing was too serious, but a few months after he had this primary complex.

he took the medicines and that may be the reason he started to walk again, but last december he stopped walking until i made the decision for him to undergo a bone biopsy. he has infection an based on the result but again he was still in pain, until one doctor advised us to have an x-ray on his spine.

we found out he was already suffering with potts disease. The doctor gave us streptomycin to control the spread of the infection, and it really helped my son, but he could not take the medicine very long because of the side effects it could bring! And now my son is not walking again because of the pain.

I just want to ask is there any medicine that could control the disease? i really hate to see my son suffering!

By anon116555 — On Oct 07, 2010

i suffer from Potts disease. i believe i got it from working at a laboratory culturing Tb when i was a biology student.

the funny part is i believe i was just stressed because i was planning on going to med school so there goes the excuse for weight loss. as for night sweats and back pain, i just didn't understand why the ultrasound of my kidneys was negative and so were the initial X-rays.

Long story short, i suffered greatly all the way to paralysis. I'm still in pain and go for epidural shots. i have collapsed vertebrae, arthritis and kyphosis. i go to the gym work out and try to block it out of my mind.

Surgery is not an option for me right now. I'm 36 years old and don't want to risk it. i ended up going to school, graduating in nuclear medicine (with a brace) and work my own hours.

I'm in pain as i write but i have to stay positive minded and live life. maybe a better form of spine rehabilitation will happen in the next 10-15 years, then maybe surgery. Good luck.

By anon98663 — On Jul 23, 2010

To anon87701: My dad is recently diagnosed with pott's disease and it's really a serious disease. he already had two spine surgeries done, and going for the third one next week. he's currently in the hospital right now. tell your father to get the surgery done and if he says no, you as a son/daughter needs to make him understand. it doesn't matter how old he is.

trust me, he must be suffering a lot on the inside and you don't know. otherwise, it is going to spread to the other part of the body really quickly.

please do something about it and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me.

By anon87701 — On Jun 01, 2010

my father was recently diagnosed of tb of the spine. he is on conservative treatment and also he was advised for an operation due to a mass on his lumbar 4, but he refused to undergo an operation. my question is: is it really necessary for an operation and also he is now 73 years old? --annabelle

By anon71916 — On Mar 20, 2010

Can pott's disease cause severe headaches, nausea and loss of equilibrium?

By anon50601 — On Oct 29, 2009

I am 45 now,and I had Pott's when I was three years old. All I know is I have a big scar down the middle of my back, and wore a back brace several years. I did take medication for a year for tuberculosis and today I test positive positive for TB.

A few years ago I started losing my hearing in both ears, from the antibiotic I was given during the surgery and I have had bulging disks in the past, and now I have chronic leg pain in both legs, also in my left arm. I ache all over most days and was told I have fibromyalgia.

Now I'm in pain management. What should I do to help myself?

By anon34857 — On Jun 29, 2009

Can you get potts disease from bladder cancer treatments with the tb virus?

By salazra10 — On Nov 06, 2008

i had pott's disease and was operated to remove the abscess. what should i do in order not to encounter this disease again?

By chinmaya — On Oct 26, 2008

Is pott's disease communicable? Is there any chance of lungs tb in patients having pott's disease?

By anon16895 — On Aug 17, 2008

Is TB spread differently when it is only located in the bone? I am a nurse and had a patient with Pott's Disease today. His chest x-rays were normal, as were his sputum cultures. Since he had no active disease in his lungs, is it possible for him to spread TB?

By anon16618 — On Aug 10, 2008

can a person who is taking anti tb drug for almost 9 months develop potts disease?

By surreptitious — On Apr 09, 2008

it would seem that potts itself isn't communicable, but because it is caused by tuberculosis, which is communicable, it is by association.

By anon4666 — On Oct 27, 2007

is pott's disease communicable?

By brekkaboo — On Sep 10, 2007

I had TB of the lymph nodes at age 13 and surgical removal of the lymph nodes and salivary glands on the right side of my neck I am now 38. I have recently been diagnosed with cerebellar tonsillar ectopia as well as a schmorls node, several hemangiomas and an annular tear of the thorasic spine. My question is could this be caused by TB of the spine? A cervical MRI has not been performed yet. Could this be caused from TB instead of all these random illnesses? I will never show positive for TB when doing a skin test because my lymph nodes never recognized TB as anything but normal. I do have leg muscle weakness and night sweats along with dizziness, headaches and nausea.

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