Leprosy (Hansen’s disease), one of the oldest diseases known to mankind, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It is communicable and is generally spread through close and repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from a person suffering from it. Leprosy affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and eyes. The best way to prevent yourself from leprosy is to stay away from infected people.
This year, World Leprosy Day is observed on 31st January 2016 to increase public awareness on Leprosy.
- Worldwide, more than 14 million leprosy patients have been cured over the past 20 years, about 4 million since 2000.
- 1.27 lakhs new cases of leprosy were reported in India during 2013-2014.
Spot Leprosy Symptoms
Leprosy affects the skin, nerves and mucous membrane. The disease can cause the following symptoms:
- Nodule like lumps on both sides of the body
- Nose lining can get affected causing crusting or difficulty in breathing
- Inflammation or bleeding of the eye which can lead to blindness
- Faded/ discoloured skin lesions and sores
- Thickened nerves of the arms, legs and face with loss of feeling
- Thick, stiff or dry skin
- Severe pain and muscle weakness
Know the Complications
Leprosy can cause permanent deformity and disability of hands, feet and face. Repeated injuries and nerve damage can cause loss of fingers and toes. Eye problems can lead to glaucoma and even blindness. Erectile dysfunction, infertility and kidney failure are caused in some severe cases.
Prevention and Treatment
Leprosy does not spread through touch and is also not a hereditary disease. It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated individuals.
- Infected people should be made to stay away from childcare, preschool, school and work to prevent the transmission of bacteria.
- Early diagnosis and rapid treatment of people who are infected to achieve proper control of the disease.
There is no vaccine to prevent leprosy but it is completely curable with Multi-Drug Therapy which includes powerful antibacterial drugs. The duration of therapy is usually 6 to 24 months, depending on the type of leprosy. If untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.
DID YOU KNOW?
Leprosy is spread like the common cold but is much less contagious than the cold or influenza and around 95% of people have a natural immunity to it.
- WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. ACCESSED JAN 11, 2016.
- CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION. ACCESSED JAN 11, 2016.
- GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. ACCESSED JAN 12, 2016.
- THE LEPROSY MISSION TRUST OF INDIA. ACCESSED JAN 12, 2016.