Miscellaneous 4 MIN READ 80 VIEWS January 24, 2023

World Leprosy Day: All You Need to Know About This Disease

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

World Leprosy Day

World Leprosy Day is an international observance that takes place on the last Sunday of January each year. The purpose of World Leprosy Day is to raise awareness of leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, and to help eradicate the stigma and prejudice associated with it. The day also serves to remind people that leprosy still exists and that it can be treated with a simple drug regimen. The day has been marked since 1954 and is endorsed by the World Health Organization.

In this article, we will discuss leprosy disease, its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, and it is a chronic infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It is characterised by skin sores, nerve damage, muscle weakness, and disfigurement. If left untreated, the disease can cause severe physical disabilities and even death. Treatment for leprosy includes antibiotics and surgery.

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently around 210,000 cases of leprosy worldwide, most of which occur in India, Brazil, and Indonesia. We will read about the symptoms and treatment of Leprosy in detail now.

Types of Leprosy

Leprosy can be of multiple types depending on its severity and spreading capacity. Different types of Leprosy include:

1. Tuberculoid Leprosy

This type of leprosy is characterised by single or multiple skin lesions which have decreased sensation to touch and temperature. The skin lesions are light patches, which are pale and dry. The nerve damage is minimal and the bacteria do not spread to other parts of the body.

2. Borderline Leprosy

This type of leprosy is also known as Dimorphous Leprosy. This type of leprosy is a combination of tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy. It is characterised by skin lesions of both types.

3. Lepromatous Leprosy

This type of leprosy is characterised by multiple skin lesions and thickening of the skin. The skin lesions are reddish-brown and raised. The nerve damage is extensive and the bacteria spread to other parts of the body.

4. Mid Borderline Leprosy

This type of leprosy is a combination of tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy. It is characterised by skin lesions that are similar to both tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy. The nerve damage is minimal but the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.

5. Indeterminate Leprosy

This type of leprosy is difficult to classify as it  falls under the initial stage of disease and is characterised by very few [maybe only one]  skin lesions, mild nerve damage, and uncertain immunity.

Causes of Leprosy

The cause of leprosy disease is an infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. The bacteria can be spread through contact with an infected person’s nasal secretions or through droplets in the air. The bacteria can also be passed on through direct contact with the skin lesions of an infected person.

Leprosy is not very contagious and is not easily spread from person to person. The bacteria can survive in the environment for several days, so it is possible to contract the disease through contact with objects used by an infected person, such as clothing, bedding, or towels.

Symptoms of Leprosy

The symptoms of leprosy vary depending on the type. The most common symptoms of leprosy are:

1. Skin Lesions

Patches of skin that are discoloured and can have raised edges. These may become numb to the touch.

2. Muscle Weakness

Particularly in the hands and feet, makes it difficult to walk or grip objects.

3. Loss of Sensation in the Affected Area

The skin may feel numb or reduced sensations.

4. Eye Damage

Leprosy can affect eye health and cause blindness if it is not treated.

5. Skin Thickening

Leprosy can cause thickening of the skin, particularly in the ear lobes, forehead, and chin.

6. Nerve Damage

Leprosy can damage nerves, leading to a loss of sensation in the hands and feet and muscle weakness.

7. Fever

Leprosy can cause a low-grade fever.

8. Weight Loss

Leprosy can cause weight loss if the patient is unable to absorb nutrients from food properly.

9. Muscle Wasting

Leprosy can cause muscle wasting, particularly in the hands and feet.

Treatments Available for Leprosy

The treatment of leprosy is aimed at curing the infection, restoring functioning to affected body parts, and preventing further disability. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a multi-drug therapy (MDT) regimen for the treatment of leprosy. The standard MDT regimen consists of three drugs: dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine. The MDT is usually administered in the form of a six-month course of treatment.

The treatment of leprosy is also aimed at preventing deformities and disabilities associated with the disease. Patients may receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or splinting to help restore function to affected body parts. In addition, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat any secondary bacterial infections.

In most cases, leprosy can be cured within six to twelve months of starting MDT. It is important to complete the entire course of treatment, as failure to do so can lead to drug resistance. If symptoms persist after treatment, the patient should be referred to a specialist for further evaluation.

Leprosy can be cured if detected early and treatment is given well in time. Some patients may continue to experience some symptoms if the nerve has already been damaged. The most common long-term complications of leprosy include disfigurement and nerve damage.

It is important to note that early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome. If you or someone you know has been exposed to leprosy, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Leprosy is a serious public health issue in many parts of the world. It is caused by a bacterium that is spread by close contact with someone who has the disease. Treatment is available and is effective if started early, and it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of leprosy. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to controlling the spread of this disease. With increased awareness, education, and access to treatment, leprosy can be prevented and managed.

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