The slow-growing bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is what causes leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, which mostly affects the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose. It can harm these tissues permanently if left untreated.
The 30th of January this year marks World Leprosy Day. This global holiday offers the chance to honor those who have battled leprosy, increase public understanding of the condition, and demand an end to prejudice and stigma connected to the disease.
Leprosy: What Is It?
The bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is what causes the infectious disease known as leprosy, sometimes known as Hansen’s disease (my-co-bak-TEER-ee-um LEP-pray). It can harm your nerves and cause disfiguring sores on your eyes, skin, mucous membranes, and skin. Leprosy has existed since antiquity. Because of the lack of knowledge about the illness, people separated and avoided those who had leprosy for generations. Since there is no effective therapy, leprosy patients do not require isolation.
What Are The Five Primary Leprosy Symptoms?
The following are the top five signs of leprosy (Hansen’s disease):
- Patches of skin that may be red or have lost their color.
- Patches of skin without or with weakened feelings
- Tingling or numbness in your arms, legs, feet, or hands.
- Burns or stab wounds to the hands and feet.
- Weak muscles.
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) patients may also experience:
- Stiff or thick skin.
- Expanded limber nerves
- Loss of brow hair or eyelashes.
- Nasal obstruction.
When the illness is advanced, it may result in:
- Loss of vision
- A deformity of the nose.
- Permanent injury to the feet and hands.
- The fingers and toes get shorter.
- Persistent foot sores on the bottom that don’t heal.
After contracting the Mycobacterium leprae infection, leprosy symptoms take between three and five years to manifest. It may potentially take up to two decades in rare circumstances. It is challenging for medical professionals to pinpoint the time and location of the infection because of this.
Does Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Spread Easily?
Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) can spread from person to person, even if it is not very contagious. Though the exact mechanism by which the illness spreads from one person to another is not entirely understood by experts, it is thought that an infected individual’s coughing or sneezing can transfer the bacterium through airborne droplets. Bacteria can be inhaled by other people when they discharge into the environment. Hugging, shaking hands, sitting next to an infected individual, or even sexual contact won’t spread Hansen’s disease.
How Is Leprosy Identified Or Diagnosed?
The doctor will take a small sample of a skin lesion that may be leprosy and send it to a lab for testing. It is known as a skin biopsy. Skin smear testing may also be done by your doctor. You won’t have any bacteria in the test findings if you have paucibacillary leprosy. There will be if you have multibacillary leprosy.
To determine which type of leprosy you have, you might need a lepromin skin test. Just beneath the skin of your forearm, the doctor will inject a tiny quantity of dormant leprosy-causing bacteria. To see if you have a reaction, they will inspect the injection site again for three days and then 28 days later. If you experience a reaction, you may have tuberculoid leprosy or leprosy, which is borderline tuberculoid. The results of this test will not be affected by leprosy or lepromatous leprosy.
Treatment For Leprosy
Leprosy is treatable. There have been 16 million leprosy cures in the past 20 years. All leprosy patients are given free care by the World Health Organization.
The type of leprosy you have will determine your treatment. The infection is treated with antibiotics. Long-term treatment is advised by doctors, typically lasting six months to a year. Antibiotics may need to be used for a longer period of time if leprosy is severe. The nerve damage caused by leprosy cannot be treated with antibiotics.
- Leprosy is frequently treated with multidrug therapy (MDT), which mixes antibiotics. This implies that you’ll take two or more drugs, frequently antibiotics:
- You will need to take two antibiotics, such as dapsone daily and rifampicin monthly if you have paucibacillary leprosy.
- With multibacillary leprosy, you’ll also need to take the daily antibiotic clofazimine, as well as dapsone and rifampicin, on a regular basis. After taking a combination of medications for one to two years, you will be cured.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines are another option for treating leprosy-related nerve discomfort and damage. Prednisone-like steroids may fall within this category.
Thalidomide is a strong medicine that inhibits the immune system, and doctors occasionally use it to treat leprosy. Leprosy skin nodules are treated with it. Additionally, it is well known that thalidomide can result in serious, fatal birth abnormalities. If you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant, never take it.
Hansen’s disease, leprosy, remained shrouded in secrecy for many years. Today, we recognize it as a treatable illness. Visit your doctor right away if you suspect you may have leprosy. Your first step to recovery and a higher quality of life is prompt treatment.