, also known as Hansen's Disease, is a medical condition that basically attacks the surface nerves
of an individual, causing a feeling of numbness and lack of sensation. Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. This disease is acquired, transmitted and spread by common airborne infections such as sneezing
and coughing. The most evident primary symptom of leprosy is the appearance of a patch on the skin, commonly associated with loss of feeling or sensation.
Most people think that people who are sick with leprosy are very contagious and should not be allowed to interact with normal people. Individuals who are infected with leprosy have a hard time interacting with other people because they are looked down and discriminated, as if they are full of germs and bacteria.
LEPROSY SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
What most people know about leprosy is that it is only spread through airborne contamination. The mere touching of a person infected with leprosy cannot immediately transfer leprosy to another. In the Biblical times, people who were infected with leprosy were cursed, taunted and ignored. In the modern times, the discrimination against people who are infected with leprosy has lessened, but the fact still can’t be denied that there is still an existing discrimination. Thanks to the modern medicines and innovations of today, leprosy can now be treated and controlled.
There are two kinds of leprosy; lepromatous and tuberculoid. Both types produce unsightly lesions or patches on the skin but the lepromatous type of leprosy is more severe because if left untreated, it can produce large and unsightly disfigured nodules on the skin. Perhaps the most common reason why people who are infected with leprosy are discriminated and looked down upon is because of the fact that leprosy brings about very unsightly lesions and physical distortions.
The first sign of leprosy is the appearance of whitish hypopigmented or reddish patches which offer no sensation when it is touched. Paralysis of the toes, legs
, limbs or fingers may also be experienced by leprosy sufferers. Painful thickened nerves as well as the appearance of raised or flat thickened patches on any part of the body are also common symptoms of this disease.
Leprosy also affects the nervous systems of infected individuals. Although this disease can not affect the central nervous system
, it attacks the peripheral, sensory, autonomic and motor nerves of leprosy sufferers in numerous ways. When the peripheral, sensory, autonomic and motor nerves of individuals are affected, it would lead to great impairment of the sense of touch.
People infected with leprosy experience sensory nerve damage; they cannot feel pain. Due to not being able to feel pain, Leprosy sufferers are vulnerable to cuts, bruises and other skin injuries which could eventually lead to cases wherein they end up losing toes, fingers, feet and hands. Careful and constant checking should be done every now and then to quickly cure and heal the cuts and wounds acquired by people who are infected with leprosy. If the wounds and cuts are left untreated, it could lead to infection and other serious complications that might worsen the health condition of the leprosy sufferer.
Damage to the motor nerves can involve various forms of paralysis such as “dropped foot”, “dropped wrist”, Lagophthalmos (inability to close the eyes), and “clawed hand”. Autonomic nerve
damage can induce hair loss
and affect the ability to sweat of an individual who is suffering from leprosy. Most people who are suffering with leprosy can be seen walking around with scarves, hats or bonnets on their heads because leprosy induces involuntary hair loss. The unfortunate inability to sweat properly will eventually cause the skin to crack and form wounds which would lead to secondary bacterial infections
. Having cracked lips
due to dryness is already a painful state to be in, so you can imagine the great pain and discomfort that leprosy sufferers experience when almost all part of their skin gets cracked due to their inability to sweat. The moisture of their skin is lost which makes it difficult for their sweat glands to produce sweat.
Contrary to popular belief, leprosy is not highly infectious, nor is it an incurable disease. In fact, most people are born with a natural immunity against leprosy. Leprosy has a long incubation period (about five to twenty years) and it is actually a disease difficult to transmit. Leprosy cannot be acquired or transmitted just by the mere shaking of hands with an infected person. People who have leprosy can easily be cured with the help of MDT or multi-drug therapy, a powerful combination of the following drugs: dapsone
, clofazimine and rifampicin, ethionamide
, thalidomide, prednisone
. Mild and non-infectious cases of leprosy can accommodate treatment for about 6 months. For severe cases of leprosy, the duration of the treatment lasts for 24 months. Leprosy starts to become infectious after about three months of treatment has began.
Since there is no known preventive vaccine that can protect people from acquiring leprosy, there is only one way to combat leprosy and that is through early detection. It is important to know the basic signs and symptoms of leprosy so that individuals can immediately go to a doctor if ever they suspect that they are infected with leprosy. There is no point in trying to hide the signs and symptoms of leprosy since it will only worsen if it goes untreated. As mentioned earlier, early detection is one of the best ways to combat leprosy.
Leprosy can actually be cured at any stage but of course, it would be much better if leprosy is diagnosed at its earliest stages so that the medicines will take effect immediately, the damage will not spread further and there will be lesser chances of patients experiencing side effects from the medicines prescribed.
People who are “cured” with leprosy are people who are free from leprosy-causing bacteria in their body. Although leprosy can be cured, there may be chances that some physical deformities will stay in the body such as scars and few distortions of certain parts of the skin.