Signs and symptoms of leprosy

  • Leprosy primarily affects the skin, eyes, thin tissue lining inside the nose, and also the peripheral nerves.
  • Skin lesions with sensory loss (with/without thickened nerves).
  • Lesions are reddish or copper-colored.
  • Weakness in muscles or paralysis of hands and feet.
  • Nerve damage in the arms, legs and skin area around the body.
  • Positive skin smears.
  • Loss of eyebrows or eyelashes.

Leprosy

Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is caused by an aetiological agent intracellular pathogenic bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. This disease can affect people of all ages, from infant to old age, and this disease affects the skin, peripheral nerves, and also the mucosal surfaces of the eyes and the upper respiratory tract.

Route of transmission

Leprosy can be transmitted from an infected person to a healthy individual through the respiratory route, and in many cases, insects are also considered as a vector for transmission. If someone comes in contact with the untreated leprosy individual's nose and mouth droplets, they will be affected by it. Children are more likely to get leprosy from adults.

Note

The symptoms of leprosy may take 3-5 years to appear. In many cases, people may not develop symptoms for over 20 years and this time period in which bacteria takes to show its appearance is called the incubation period. This incubation period makes it difficult to diagnose the individual affected with leprosy.

Complications

Leprosy produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and weakens the muscles. If not treated, it will cause significant disability and severe disfigurement, like it can cause permanent damage to skin, eyes, legs, feet, nerves, and arms.

Other complications include:

  1. Kidney failure.
  2. Blindness or glaucoma.
  3. Infertility in men.
  4. Permanent damage inside the nose and can cause nose bleeds and stuffy nose.
  5. Permanent damage in the nerves that are present outside the spinal cord and brain (and associated with feet, arms, and legs).
  6. Loss of feeling or sensation due to nerve damage (it can make a person not feel pain when their hands are cut, burned, or injured).

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Types of Leprosy

  • 1

    Tuberculoid It is less contagious than other forms, and a mild, less severe form of leprosy. Affected individuals have few patches that are flat and pale colored. The affected area due to nerve damage feels numb.

  • 2

    Lepromatous leprosy This type of leprosy affects the skin, nerves, and various other organs. Lesions are widespread with lather bumps and nodules, and this disease is more contagious.

  • 3

    Borderline This type has both the clinical features of the tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is based on the signs and symptoms. Skin biopsy and smear tests are also done to detect the disease.

Treatment

It is curable, and multidrug therapy (MDT) or a combination of the drug is prescribed as if the body develops resistance against one drug the other can work.

  1. Antibiotics to treat the infection.
  2. Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage nerve pain and damage related to leprosy.
  3. Potent medications to suppress the body’s immune system and to treat skin nodules (must be taken after doctor prescription only).

It is always recommended to consult a dermatologist if any of the symptoms of leprosy are determined, in order to prevent the complications caused by this contagious disease. For leprosy treatment in Delhi, one can visit Dermaworld Skin Clinics.


Dr. Rohit Batra, an MD (Dermatology,
Venereology & Leprology), is an adult,
pediatric and cosmetic dermatologist
& dermato-surgeon based at New Delhi.


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