Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. It affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.
The symptoms of leprosy vary depending on the type of leprosy. The three main types of leprosy are:
- Tuberculoid leprosy: This is the mildest form of leprosy. It causes discolored skin patches, loss of sensation, and thickened nerves.
- Lepromatous leprosy: This is the most severe form of leprosy. It causes widespread skin lesions, loss of sensation, and thickened nerves.
- Borderline leprosy: This is an intermediate form of leprosy. It has symptoms that are between those of tuberculoid leprosy and lepromatous leprosy.
The symptoms of leprosy usually develop slowly over a period of months or years. The first symptom is often a discolored skin patch that does not go away. The patch may be pale, reddish, or brownish. It may be smooth or raised. The patch may also be numb or have decreased sensation.
As the disease progresses, the skin lesions may become larger and more widespread. The nerves may also become thickened and damaged. This can lead to loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and paralysis. In severe cases, leprosy can cause blindness, disfigurement, and disability.
Leprosy is spread through prolonged close contact with an infected person. The bacteria can enter the body through the skin or the respiratory tract. The risk of getting leprosy is higher in people who live in crowded conditions and have poor hygiene.
There is no cure for leprosy, but it is curable with early diagnosis and treatment. The standard treatment for leprosy is a combination of antibiotics. Treatment usually takes 6 to 12 months.
If you think you may have leprosy, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disability and improve the chances of a full recovery.
Here are some additional things to know about leprosy:
- Leprosy is not as contagious as many people think. It is not spread through casual contact, such as shaking hands or sharing a meal.
- Leprosy is not fatal if it is treated early.
- Leprosy is a reportable disease, which means that doctors are required to report cases of leprosy to the health department.
- There are many organizations that work to raise awareness of leprosy and to provide treatment and support to people with leprosy.
If you have any questions or concerns about leprosy, please talk to your doctor.