Overview of Leprosy

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), or Hanseniasis, is a long-term infectious disease caused by a slow-growing bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis.

This bacteria grows slowly and may take nearly 20 years to show its symptoms. Leprosy is not a highly contagious disease and with early diagnosis and management, the infection can be cured. There are fewer chances of leprosy infection being transmitted to other people, however with an extensive contact with an infected person, it is possible

It primarily affects the peripheral nervous system, skin, eyes, and other body tissues such as the reticulo-endothelial system, bones and joints, mucous membranes, eyes, muscles, testes, and adrenals.

leprosy-overview

Leprosy disease is commonly seen in tropical and subtropical Asia, Africa, Central and South America, some Pacific countries, and a few areas of the USA.


Types of Leprosy

  • Tuberculoid Hansen’s disease: The immune system is strong in this type. This disease type only has a few lesions, and it is mild and only mildly contagious.
  • Lepromatous Hansen’s disease: The immune system is poor in this type and the disease damages the nerves, skin, testes, bone, and other body tissues. It is characterized by generalized or widespread involvement of the skin, involving nodules, (a small raised area or swelling on the skin—large lumps and bumps). The lepromatous disease is more contagious.
  • Borderline Hansen’s disease or dimorphous hansen’s disease : It is a very common type of leprosy with intermediate severity. The skin lesions match those of the tuberculoid type. The lesions are numerous and are scattered all over the body.

Symptoms

Common symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Dry scalp
  • Eye problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Speech problems

Mucous membrane symptoms

  • A stuffy nose
  • Bleeding in the nose

If Hansen’s disease is left untreated, it can give rise to severe symptoms, including

  • Paralysis and crippling of feet and hands
  • Reabsorption causing shortening of toes and fingers
  • Ulcers on the bottoms of the feet that do not heal
  • Blindness
  • Absence of eyebrows
  • Disfigurement of the nose
  • A burning sensation of the skin
  • Around the affected area, there is redness and agony
  • Painful nerves

Skin lesions symptoms

  • Nodules on the skin
  • Painless ulcers on the feet
  • Absence of eyebrows or eyelashes
  • Painless lumps or swelling on the face or earlobes
  • Light coloured spots on the skin
  • Thick, stiff or dry skin

Nerve damage symptoms

  • Skin numbness in the impacted regions
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis is usually observed in the hands and feet
  • Nerves are enlarged
  • Problems with the eyes could lead to blindness

When to see a doctor?

You can consult a primary care doctor if you notice leprosy related symptoms on your body. The doctor may refer you to a leprosy specialist, general physician, or dermatologist

Consult our Dermatologist experts for more information and adequate treatment for Hansen’s disease (leprosy)


Causes of Leprosy

  • Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis is the mycobacteria that gives rise to Hansen's disease or leprosy
  • Prolonged, close contact with a leprosy-affected person
  • Close contact with a person who has infectious mucosal secretions

During pregnancy, leprosy sickness is not passed on from a mother to her unborn child, and it is also not contracted through sexual contact.


Risk Factors

  • The major risk factor for developing Hansen’s disease is close contact with an infected person
  • Poverty increases the risk of contracting leprosy
  • Certain conditions that decrease immunity, such as malnourishment, specific illnesses, or chromosomal mutation may grow the chances of developing leprosy

Diagnosis

The leprosy doctor will conduct a clinical examination to look for the leprosy signs and symptoms.

The doctor will prefer to take a tissue sample of the skin or nerve (skin or nerve biopsy) for laboratory testing to confirm the diagnosis.

The doctor will ask about the medical history, such as recent travel history to high-risk regions or close contact with an infected person

Lepromin skin test or leprosy skin test might be done to determine the type of leprosy.


Treatment for Leprosy

Various leprostatic agents are used for leprosy treatment. A 3-drug combination of antibiotics consisting of dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine is prescribed for leprosy patients. The leprosy doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory drugs also.

Multidrug therapy (MDT) is considered a highly effective treatment and even after a single dose, the suffering individuals no longer remain infectious.

In the case of nerve damage, protective footwear may aid in preventing ulcers and secondary infection.


Dos and Don’ts

Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic bacterial infection known to humans since ancient times. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It can be contagious if anyone is in close proximity to the infected person for a long time.

Do’sDon’ts
Take prescribed antibioticsScratch or rub the skin to remove the damaged skin
Avoid close contact with an infected personSkip your leprosy medicines
Maintain hygiene around your surroundingsHide the leprosy patch on the body
Examine your body if there’s a patch with no sensationAvoid seeking early treatment
Maintain skin hygieneDepend on home remedies

Follow the do’s and dont’s for leprosy infection to get satisfactory health benefits. Taking multidrug therapy (MDT) can cure the Hansen disease to a great extent.


Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover hospitals, we have the most reliable healthcare team of dermatologists, infectious disease specialists and general physicians who design a personalized treatment pathway for each patient. We adopt a multi-faceted approach in managing leprosy disease with the active participation of healthcare specialists from different departments to address the disease for holistic recovery and wellness. We aim to provide the best treatment outcomes and a satisfactory patient experiences at highly affordable cost.

Citations

Leprosy
Hansen's Disease (Leprosy)
Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)
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