What is Leprosy and how does it affect you ?
Leprosy is a contagious illness that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and other body parts. Leprosy has existed from the beginning of time. People have been impacted by outbreaks on every continent.
However, leprosy, sometimes known as Hanson’s sickness, is not a very infectious illness. You can only get it if you come into close and repeated contact with leprosy-infected person’s nose and mouth droplets. Leprosy is more common in children than in adults.
According to the World Health Organization, around 208,000 individuals worldwide are infected with leprosy, the majority of whom live in Africa and Asia. Every year, about 100 persons in the United States are diagnosed with leprosy, primarily in the South, California, Hawaii, and other US territories.
Symptoms of Leprosy
Leprosy typically affects your skin and peripheral nerves, which are located outside of your brain and spinal cord. Your eyes and the delicate tissue lining the inside of your nose may also be affected.
Leprosy is characterized by disfiguring skin lesions, lumps, or bumps that persist for several weeks or months. The lesions on the skin are light in hue.
Nerve injury can cause numbness in the arms and legs.
After coming into touch with the bacterium that causes leprosy, symptoms generally develop after 3 to 5 years. Some people do not show symptoms until they are 20 years old. The incubation period is the time between contact with the bacterium and the onset of symptoms. The extended incubation period of leprosy makes it difficult for doctors to identify when and where a patient became infected.
Leprosy cannot be passed on to unborn children by pregnant women who have the disease. It’s also not spread through sexual contact.
Leprosy’s Different Types
The amount and type of skin lesions you have determines whether you have leprosy. The kind of leprosy determines the symptoms and treatment options. The kinds are as follows:
Tuberculoid. Leprosy that is milder and less severe. Only one or a few areas of flat, pale-colored skin are seen in people with this kind (paucibacillary leprosy). Because of nerve injury beneath the skin, the afflicted region may feel numb. Tuberculoid leprosy is a kind of leprosy that is less infectious than other types.
The disease has developed into a more serious condition. It causes extensive skin lumps and rashes, numbness, and muscular weakness (Multibacillary leprosy). It’s also possible that the nose, kidneys, and male reproductive organs will be damaged. It is more infectious than tuberculosis.
This kind of leprosy has symptoms that are similar to both tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy.
Doctors may also use the following classification
- SLPB stands for single lesion paucibacillary.
- Two to five paucibacillary (PB) lesions
- Six or more lesions are considered Multibacillary (MB).
Diagnosis of Leprosy
If you have a skin sore that you think could be leprosy, your doctor will take a tiny sample and send it to a lab for testing. A skin biopsy is the medical term for this procedure. A skin smear test may also be performed by your doctor. There will be no bacteria in the test findings if you have paucibacillary leprosy. There will be if you have Multibacillary leprosy.
To determine the form of leprosy you have, you may require a leporine skin test. A little quantity of dormant leprosy-causing bacteria will be injected just beneath the skin of your forearm for this test. They’ll inspect the site where you had the shot three days later and again 28 days later to see if you had a reaction. You might have tuberculoid or borderline tuberculoid leprosy if you experience a response. This test has no effect on those who do not have leprosy or who have lepromatous leprosy.
Treatment for Leprosy
Leprosy is curable. 16 million persons with leprosy have been healed in the previous two decades. All persons with leprosy are treated for free by the World Health Organization.
MDT (multidrug therapy) is a popular leprosy treatment that includes antibiotics. This implies you’ll need to take two or more drugs, most of which are antibiotics:
You’ll take two antibiotics, such as Dapsone every day and rifampicin once a month, if you have paucibacillary leprosy.
Multibacillary leprosy: In addition to the daily Dapsone and monthly rifampicin, you’ll take a daily dosage of the antibiotic clofazimine. You’ll be on multidrug therapy for 1-2 years before being healed.
Anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to treat nerve discomfort and damage caused by leprosy. Steroids, such as prednisone, may be involved.
The drug thalidomide, which inhibits your immune system, is occasionally used to treat leprosy. It aids in the treatment of leprosy skin nodules. Thalidomide has also been linked to serious and perhaps fatal birth abnormalities. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, don’t take it.
Complications of Leprosy
Leprosy can permanently harm your skin, nerves, limbs, legs, feet, and eyes if you don’t get treatment.
- Leprosy complications might include blindness or glaucoma.
- Hair loss is a common problem.
- A facial disfigurement (including permanent swelling, bumps, and lumps)
- Men’s erectile dysfunction and infertility
- Failure of the kidneys
- Muscle weakness might result in claw-like hands or an inability to flex your feet.
- Damage to the inside of your nose that can result in nosebleeds and a chronic stuffy nose.
- Damage to nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, such as those in the arms, legs, and feet, can be permanent.
Damage to the nerves might result in a hazardous loss of sensation. You may not feel pain when you receive cuts, burns, or other injuries on your hands, legs, or feet if you have leprosy-related nerve loss.