What comes to your mind when we first mention the world leprosy? Skin falling off bones, disfigurement of limbs, infection and the affected being outcast to isolated locations. It is believed to be one of the oldest diseases that have been around since centuries and tales of leprosy are terrifying and there are many negative stigmas associated with it. The last Sunday of January is observed as World Leprosy Day every year and in 2000, the WHO declared leprosy being eliminated as a public health problem. However, there are certain cases of leprosy still that crop up in many countries, and India and Brazil report the most number of cases annually. Therefore WHO says that national programmed should be held to actively find cases of leprosy, strengthen surveillance and focus on early detection to ensure achieving a global target of zero child infection by 2020. “It is a harsh reality that nine out of every 100 new cases diagnosed today are children,” WHO’s Global Leprosy Programme Team Leader Dr. Erwin Cooreman said. “The world has the tools, the right medicines, and the political will - yet we are falling short of detecting the disease in time, particularly among children.”
Let us now learn about leprosy in details:
What causes Leprosy?
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy is also named Hansen’s Disease after the scientist who discovered the cause of the diseases as the bacteria M.laprae in 1873.
Leprosy is an infection that does not get transmitted by sitting close, handshake or a simple touch. The disease is transmitted when a person comes in contact with the affected person’s nose or mouth droplets.
What are the signs and symptoms of Leprosy?
The bacterium M.laprae that causes leprosy has a very long incubation period and can take up to 2-10 years time before the symptoms appear.
The common symptoms of leprosy are:
- Painful skin sores
- Growths on skin
- Lack of feeling in legs, arms, hands, and feet
- Enlarged nerves around knees and elbow
- Symmetrical lumps like nodules, papules, and macules on both sides of the body
- Skin lesions that have a different color than the rest of the body
- Lesions that do not heal even after months
- Ulcers on soles of feet
- Stiff, thick and dry skin
- Muscle weakness
- Eye problems
Treatment of Leprosy:
Early detection is the key to treatment of leprosy. If a skin sore you have is suspicious, the doctor will scrape a sample of the abnormal skin to be examined known as a skin biopsy.
Can leprosy be treated? The good news is, YES leprosy can be treated and cured. As per the reports by WHO, 16 million people with leprosy have been cured. However, the mode of treatment depends on the type of leprosy you have. Usually, antibiotics and multi-drug therapy are administered to treat leprosy. The WHO provides free treatment for all infected with leprosy.
However, because of discrimination and social stigma, people affected with leprosy deter from coming forward for diagnosis and treatment. Awareness needs to raised so as to eradicate leprosy from the world.