Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Tuberculin Skin Test

Tuberculin Skin Test

Test Overview

A tuberculin skin test (also called a Mantoux tuberculin test) is done to see if you have ever been exposed to tuberculosis (TB). The test is done by putting a small amount of TB protein (antigens) under the top layer of skin on your inner forearm. If you have ever been exposed to the TB bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), your skin will react to the antigens by developing a firm red bump at the site within 2 days.

The TB antigens used in a tuberculin skin test are called purified protein derivative (PPD). A measured amount of PPD in a shot is put under the top layer of skin on your forearm. This is a good test for finding a TB infection. It is often used when symptoms, screening, or testing, such as a chest X-ray, show that a person may have TB.

A tuberculin skin test cannot tell how long you have been infected with TB. It also cannot tell if the infection is latent (inactive) or if you have active TB that can be passed to others.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

A tuberculin skin test is done to find people who have tuberculosis (TB), including:

  • People who have been in close contact with someone known to have TB.
  • Health care workers who are likely to be exposed to TB.
  • People with TB symptoms, such as an ongoing cough, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.
  • People who have had an abnormal chest X-ray.
  • People who have had a recent organ transplant or have an impaired immune system, such as those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

A tuberculin skin test should not be done for people:

  • With a known TB infection.
  • Who have had a previous severe reaction to the TB antigens.
  • Who have a skin rash that would make it hard to read the skin test.
How To Prepare

How To Prepare

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How It Is Done

How It Is Done

For a tuberculin skin test, you sit down and turn the inner side of your forearm up. The skin where the test is done is cleaned and allowed to dry. A small shot of the tuberculosis antigen (purified protein derivative, or PPD) is put under the top layer of skin. The fluid makes a little bump (wheal) under the skin. A circle may be drawn around the test area with a pen.

How It Feels

How It Feels

You may feel a quick sting or pinch from the needle.

Risks

Risks

There is a very slight risk of having a severe reaction to the tuberculin skin test, especially if you've had tuberculosis (TB). An allergic reaction can cause a lot of swelling and pain at the site. You may have a sore.

You cannot get a TB infection from the tuberculin skin test. That's because no live bacteria are used for the test.

A tuberculin skin test is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Results

Results

Redness alone at the skin test site usually means you haven't been infected with TB bacteria. A firm red bump may mean you have been infected with TB bacteria at some time. The size of the firm bump (not the red area) is measured 2 to 3 days after the test to find out the result. Your doctor will consider your chance of having TB when looking at the skin test site.

Results of the test depend on your risk for TB. If you are at higher risk, a smaller bump is considered a sign of infection. People at lower risk for having TB need to have a larger bump to be diagnosed with a TB infection.

Mantoux tuberculin skin test

Normal (negative results):

No firm bump forms at the test site, or a bump forms that is smaller than 5 mm (0.2 in.)

Abnormal (positive results):

A firm bump that is 5 mm (0.2 in.) or larger in size suggests a TB infection.

A positive reaction can usually be seen for about 1 week.

A positive tuberculin skin test doesn't mean you have contagious (active) TB. The test can't tell whether you have active or inactive (latent) TB. It also can't tell the difference between a TB infection and a TB vaccination (BCG vaccination). More tests—such as a chest X-ray, a sputum culture, or both—are usually done to see if you have an active TB infection.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Medical Tests: Questions to Ask the Doctor

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details