Leprosy – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is leprosy?
Leprosy is a chronic, progressive infectious disease characterized by skin lesions and nerve damage. This disease is known to exist since biblical times. This infectious disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
Children are more likely than adults to get the disease. Leprosy is not very contagious and is a curable disease. If left untreated, leprosy results in disfigurement and disability.
What causes leprosy?
Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacteriumlepromatosis.
Doctors and scientists believe that the bacteria spread when a person breathes in tiny airborne droplets released when someone with leprosy coughs or sneezes. The bacteria may also be passed on by coming into contact with the nasal fluids of a person with leprosy. There are two common forms of leprosy; tuberculoid leprosy and lepromatous leprosy. Both forms produce sores on the skin. However, the lepromatous form of leprosy is more severe. It causes large lumps and bumps (nodules).
What are the symptoms of leprosy?
Leprosy has a long incubation period, which means it takes a very long time before symptoms appear. This makes it hard to know where or when someone caught the disease.
The following are the symptoms of leprosy:
- Skin lesions that are lighter than your normal skin color
- Lesions that have decreased sensation to touch, heat, or pain
- Lesions that do not heal after several weeks to months
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or lack of feeling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
How is leprosy diagnosed?
The following tests are done to diagnose leprosy:
- Skin lesion biopsy
- Skin scraping examination
- The lepromin skin test (used only to tell the 2 different forms of leprosy)
How is leprosy treated?
Doctors use several antibiotics to kill the bacteria that caused the disease. Often, more than one antibiotic is used together for more effective treatment.
The doctor may prescribe the following antibiotics:
The doctor may prescribe aspirin, prednisone, or thalidomide to control inflammation.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.