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Leprosy - Causes, symptoms and treatment

Updated on June 12, 2019
srishilpi23 profile image

Intern at Prayaas Corps, coder, social activist, writer, bibliophile

Leprosy or Hansen's disease(HD) is a long term infection caused by the Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. It is called Hansen's disease because it is named after the Norwegian doctor, Armauer Hansen, who first discovered the bacteria causing leprosy in the year1873. It is a bacterial disease that takes 5 to 20 years to develop symptoms in a healthy person. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, eyes, and skin. This leads to a lack of consciousness in the skin and also reduces the ability to feel pain in the affected part of the body. Weakness and poor eyesight are also present. Leprosy can occur to anyone, at any age ranging from early infancy to old age.

Hansen's disease is deadly but not highly infectious. It is transmitted through droplets expelled sneezes or coughs or by coming in contact with nasal fluids on surfaces. There is a myth in the old times, according to which the disease spreads when we touch the infected person, which is not valid. Around 95 percent of the world's population is naturally immune, and even after prolonged exposure will not pick up the disease. Usually, the immune system of the body can fight infections. Children are more at risk than adults, according to the US National Library Of Medicine (NLM). In India

India ,Leprosy has become a stigma, people never want to talk about it, they always consider it something scary, like if they talk about it they will get caught with the disese. But it is just a myth, reality of Leprosy is completely different one dose of Multi Drug Therapy works fine for the patrient and a complete course can eradicate the disease completely.

In 2015, the official global number of people with leprosy was registered as just over 176,176, down from 5.2 million in the 1980s. All the presentations of disease are considered chronic.


The symptoms of leprosy are present differently in various people. In a country or region having high chances of leprosy shows the following shows one of the following cardinal signs.

1. Consistent skin lesions with pigments lighter than the normal skin and remain for months. Sometimes these sores are reddish or copper colored.

2. Patches of skin with decreased sensation, such as heat, pain, and touch.

3. Stuffy nose or nosebleeds.

4. Positive skin smears.

5. Thickened nerves, mainly peripheral nerve abdomens are accompanied by other signs like muscle weakness and loss in sensation which results in damage to the nerve.

6. Ulcers on the soles of the feet.

7. Curling of fingers and thumb, caused by paralysis of small muscle in hands.


Leprosy can be classified into 2 major categories on the basis of clinical demonstrations and skin distortions. In the classification based on skin distortions, patients showing negative smear said to have Paucibacillary leprosy(PB), while those showing positive smear are said to have Multibacillary leprosy(MB).

A person with the paucibacillary disease has five or fewer poorly pigmented numb skin patches while the person with multibacillary has more than five.


Treatment of leprosy consists of a multidrug therapy approach that lasts between 6 to 12 months. The first drug found effective, Dapsone has been in use since 1946. Later, some resistance to the drug was identified, and others were developed for use where the disease was resistant. These drugs were rifampicin and clofazimine.

For people with nerve damage, protective footwear may prevent ulcers and secondary infections.


Intern at Prayaas Corps,

Engineering undergrad | Sophomore| coder| social activist| writer


Prayaas Corps is a Non-Profit Non-Governmental Organization working in the field of Education Sector. The captive initiative of Prayaas Corps is known as Shiksha Mission in which underprivileged students are provided a class of education. Apart from the mainstream education system, children are educated about new technologies, skills to cope up with the challenging and competitive world.

© 2019 srishilpi23


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    • srishilpi23 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 months ago

      Thanks Larry. I am glad that it helps you to know about Leprosy

    • Larry Slawson profile image

      Larry Slawson 

      9 months ago from North Carolina

      I had often wondered what leprosy was (never really researched it before). Thank you for sharing. Very informative!


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