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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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Leprosy or Hansen's disease is an infectious disease that is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. This condition can affect the nerves of the hands, feet, eyes, lining of the nose, and in some cases, it can also affect the kidney and testicles. If the condition is left untreated, leprosy can cause deformities in hands, feet, kidney failure, and even blindness. The disease is spread by close contact with the infected individual and from infected respiratory droplets. 

The symptoms of leprosy progress slowly. The symptoms may include

  • Eye problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin sores or lesions
  • Skin lumps and bumps
  • Running nose, eye, and ear problems
  • Numbness on the skin, hands, legs, feet, and arms
  • Appearance of skin lesions (arms, hands, feet) that appear lighter compared to normal skin color

Leprosy is caused by a bacterium known as mycobacterium leprae. Repetitive contact with an untreated person can lead to contracting leprosy. The disease affects the nerves of the extremities, the lining of the nose, upper respiratory tract, and skin.  People who have a weak immune system or suffer from a chronic disease such as heart disease, HIV, diabetes, etc. are more likely to develop leprosy. If the condition is not treated properly, it causes significant disability.

No, leprosy is an infectious disease and is not inherited, but people can inherit an increased risk of contracting leprosy if they are exposed to mycobacterium leprae, or they can come in contact with an infected individual. The susceptibility can run in families; however, the inheritance pattern of the disease is unknown.

Leprosy is not a highly contagious disease. However, it can be transferred through droplets of moisture passed in the air from someone who is infected with leprosy. Due to the slow-growing nature of the bacteria, it takes a long time to develop the signs and symptoms of this disease; hence sometimes it becomes very difficult to find the source of infection of this disease.

Yes, leprosy can be cured with Multi-Drug Therapy and certain antibiotics.

The treatment for leprosy may depend upon the severity and extent of the condition. Long-term treatment with antibiotics can usually take around six months to two years. Early diagnosis helps to prevent the severity of this disease. Multidrug therapy is also effective in treating this disease.

The bacterium Mycobacterium Laprae is a causative agent that is responsible for leprosy, a chronic infectious disease. It is a slow-growing bacteria that affects the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose. The disease can transmit from one person to another, but treatment at an early stage can prevent disability.

Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease, which cannot be caught by touching. It can take years to catch the disease by living in proximity of the leprosy patient. The disease spreads by droplets of moisture passed through the air from the infected individual.

The symptoms of leprosy might take years to show. The main symptoms are:

  • Skin lesions that appear lighter than the original skin color
  • Enlarged nerves, especially in knees and elbows
  • Patches of skin with decreased sensation
  • Ulcers on the soles of the feet
  • Curling of fingers and thumb
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Impaired vision
  • Stuffy nose


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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