Potts disease is medically known as tuberculosis spondylitis, or spinal tuberculosis. A rare and very serious disorder, Potts disease is a form of tuberculosis that manifests outside the lungs (extrapulmonary) and primarily affects the spine.
About 4,000 cases of extrapulmonary tuberculosis occur each year in the United States, and the spine is the most common location, according to Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics.
The earliest and most common symptom of Potts disease is back pain. As the disease progresses, fever, night sweats, lack of appetite and weight loss occur. The person may experience tingling, numbness and weakness in the legs.
The spinal disks can become severely damaged, causing collapse of the affected vertebrae and a shortening and bending of the spine. If not successfully treated, the disease progressively destroys the spinal column.
Reactivation of inadequately treated tuberculosis is a primary risk factor for Potts disease, an occurrence more common in developing countries. It is also more common among patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Chemotherapy with anti-tuberculosis drugs is the first line of defense. Some patients need a rod inserted into the spinal area to regain stability. More extensive surgery may be required for more severe cases.