by Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis bacteria. It is a slowly developing, progressive disease that can be asymptomatic for 5 to 20 years.
Leprosy is not highly infectious, but can be transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
The types of leprosy disease are classified based on the number of bacteria present:
The main symptoms of leprosy include:
- muscle weakness
- numbness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
- skin lesions (have decreased sensation to touch, temperature, or pain, don’t heal after several weeks and are lighter than your normal skin tone)
Other symptoms are:
- large ulcerations
- loss of digits
- skin nodules
- facial disfigurement may develop
Complications that may arise from delayed diagnosis and treatment of leprosy include:
- hair loss, particularly on the eyebrows and eyelashes
- muscle weakness
- permanent nerve damage in the arms and legs
- inability to use the hands and feet
- chronic nasal congestion, nosebleeds, and collapse of the nasal septum
- iritis (inflammation of the iris of the eye)
- glaucoma (an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve)
- erectile dysfunction and infertility
- kidney failure
The best way to prevent leprosy is to avoid long-term, close contact with an untreated, infected person.
A multidrug therapy developed by WHO in 1995 is used to cure all types of leprosy. It is available free of charge worldwide. Also, several antibiotics such as; Dapsone, rifampin, clofazamine, minocycline and ofloxacin, can be used to treat leprosy by killing the bacteria that causes it.
Compiled by; eDokita Team.
- Maureen Donohue and Steven Kim; Leprosy. Healthline. 2015
- WHO; Leprosy fact sheet. 2016
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Hansen’s disease (Leprosy).2013
- Suzuki K, Akama T, Kawashima A, Yoshihara A, Yotsu RR and Ishii N “Current status of leprosy: epidemiology, basic science and clinical perspectives.”.The Journal of dermatology.39 (2): 121–9. doi:10.1111/j.1346-8138.2011.01370.x. PMID 21973237.
- Charles Patrick Davis and Melissa Conrad Stöppler; Leprosy (Hansen’s disease). MedicineNet.com 2016.