Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa).
With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured. People with Leprosy can continue to work and lead an active life during and after treatment.
Leprosy was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease, but now we know it doesn’t spread easily and treatment is very effective. However, if left untreated, the nerve damage can result in crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness.
SIGN AND SYMPTOMS –
Symptoms mainly affect the skin, nerves, and mucous membranes (the soft, moist areas just inside the body’s openings).
The disease can cause skin symptoms such as:
- Discolored patches of skin, usually flat, that may be numb and look faded (lighter than the skin around)
- Growths (nodules) on the skin
- Thick, stiff or dry skin
- Painless ulcers on the soles of feet
- Painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes
- Loss of eyebrows or eyelashes
Symptoms caused by damage to the nerves are:
- Numbness of affected areas of the skin
- Muscle weakness or paralysis (especially in the hands and feet)
- Enlarged nerves (especially those around the elbow and knee and in the sides of the neck)
- Eye problems that may lead to blindness (when facial nerves are affected)
Symptoms caused by the disease in the mucous membranes are:
- A stuffy nose
Since Leprosy affects the nerves, loss of feeling or sensation can occur. When loss of sensation occurs, injuries such as burns may go unnoticed. Because you may not feel the pain that can warn you of harm to your body, take extra caution to ensure the affected parts of your body are not injured.
If left untreated, the signs of advanced leprosy can include:
- Paralysis and crippling of hands and feet
- Shortening of toes and fingers due to reabsorption
- Chronic non-healing ulcers on the bottoms of the feet
- Loss of eyebrows
- Nose disfigurement
Other complications that may sometimes occur are:
- Painful or tender nerves
- Redness and pain around the affected area
- Burning sensation in the skin
Coming into close contact with the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae causes leprosy.