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Last Updated: Jun 09, 2020
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Leprosy - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

About Classifications Symptoms Causes Is leprosy contagious? Risk factors Diagnosis Treatment Complications Prevention

What is leprosy?

Also known as Hansen’s disease, Leprosy is a kind of skin infection that is caused due to bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae, which causes a progressive, chronic bacterial infection called leprosy. The nerves in the nose’s lining, the upper respiratory tract and in the extremities get affected by it. Leprosy produces nerve damage, muscle weakness and skin sores. If not treated, it may result in significant disability and severe disfigurement. Leprosy is quite common in lots of countries, especially those having subtropical or tropical climates.

Where is leprosy found?

Leprosy is mainly found on the skin, it affects the nerves especially nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Some more organs are also included in the leprosy infection which includes eyes, and thin tissue lining inside the nose.

What does leprosy look like?

Leprosy is a disease that looks like an ulcer and the skin becomes pale and discolored. The affected area of the skin also loses sensation.

How common is leprosy?

According to WHO the prevalence rate of leprosy corresponds to 0.2/10,000. Globally 159 countries are affected with leprosy.

Are there different forms (classifications) of leprosy?

Leprosy can be classified into the following forms:

  1. Intermediate leprosy: This stage can be called as the first or the earliest stage of leprosy in which there are flat lesions on the skin. This stage gets healed by itself but a person must have strong immunity.
  2. Tuberculoid leprosy: This stage is a bit more serious than the first one. People who suffer from tuberculoid leprosy have white patches on the skin and the skin becomes pale in color. The area which gets affected losses sensation as the nerves are damaged.
  3. Borderline Tuberculoid leprosy: The symptoms of Borderline Tuberculoid leprosy and tuberculoid are the same but the infection continues and it may also advanced.
  4. Mid-borderline leprosy: In this, the symptoms are similar to borderline tuberculoid leprosy. In this, on the skin, there are reddish plaques along with which can also take any other form or shape.
  5. Borderline leprosy: In this stage, there are multiple types of wounds and scars on the skin and it is also known as a cutaneous skin condition.
  6. Lepromatous leprosy: This is one of the most severe types of leprosy and is caused by a number of lesions bacteria. The region which gets affected is full of bumps, that part also becomes numb and rashes.

What are the symptoms of leprosy?

Symptoms might not show up till 20 years. The doctor can carry out a physical examination to search for symptoms and telltale signs of the disease. The symptoms of leprosy include the following:

  • Skin lesions
  • The weakness of the muscles
  • Numbness of the hands, feet, arms, and legs.
  • Primarily the skin and nerves are attacked during this disease and the skin gets disfigured as there are a number of lumps, sores, and bumps on the skin.
  • But if the person gets infected by the bacteria which causes leprosy symptoms will be seen after 3-4 years as it is a progressive disease and the incubation period of the bacteria is also very long.
  • Though skin is the main organ that is damaged leprosy also damages the nervous system of the body which includes sensory nerves, eye nerves, motor nerves, and autonomic nerves.

What causes leprosy?

The main cause of leprosy is Mycobacterium leprae which is a kind of bacteria. It is a kind of slow-growing bacteria and was discovered by M. leprae.

How does leprosy spread? Is leprosy contagious?

Leprosy can spread from one person to another by droplets which can be nasal secretion. Leprosy is the disease that is said to be mildly contagious as it is not an airborne disease but is communicable through sexual activities . and nasal secretion. Its effects are not seen soon after as it is a progressive disease and takes ages to reflect properly.

What are the risk factors for leprosy?

These are the risk factors for leprosy:

  • The biggest risk of leprosy is that is spreads from one person to another. Therefore people who live with or near the people affected with leprosy are at the highest risk.
  • People suffering from malnutrition can get affected by leprosy.
  • If a person has a weaker immune system then he/she also gets affected by leprosy as the body does not have any power to fight against the bacteria.
  • If a person is suffering from HIV and along with that gets affected by leprosy then the condition gets worse as they start getting antiviral treatment.

How is leprosy is diagnosed?

The doctor can carry out a physical examination to search for symptoms and telltale signs of the disease. They also carry out scraping or skin biopsy. The doctor removes a small part of the skin and sends the sample to the lab for testing. They might even conduct lepromin test of the skin for determining the kind of leprosy. The doctor injects a tiny amount of leprosy inducing bacteria in the skin, usually in the upper part of the fore arm. People having borderline tuberculoid or tuberculoid leprosy have irritation at the site of injection.

How is leprosy treated?

The treatment of leprosy is dependent upon antibiotics and it is the only means used for the treatment. If a person is suffering from leprosy then he/she is given MTD that is multi-drug treatment and the drugs are never used as monotherapy or single. The infection is treated with the help of antibiotics and if the treatment is long term and the duration extends from six months to one year then two or more antibiotics are used.

But antibiotics can only treat the damaged skin and not the damaged nerves. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs is also done in order to treat the infection, pain, and inflammation during leprosy. Some steroids are also used which includes prednisone. Patients who suffer from this disease mostly experience a weaker immune system thus thalidomide is given to make the immune system stronger. This helps in the treatment of leprosy skin nodules.

The World Health Organization has come up with a multiple drug therapy for curing all kinds of leprosy. It is available worldwide for free of cost. Quite a few antibiotics are also available for killing the leprosy causing bacteria. Your doctor might prescribe multiple antibiotics at once.

These antibiotics are:

What are the complications of leprosy?

These are the complications that a person who is suffering from leprosy can have:

  • Disfigured organs which include the face, hands, legs or any other part
  • Glaucoma or blindness
  • Failure of kidney
  • Infertility in men and erectile dysfunction
  • The weakness of the muscles which leads to a number of difficulties
  • Permanent damage of nose which includes nose bleeding, and stuffy nose
  • Permanent damage to the nerves which are present outside the brain and spinal cord. This also includes nerves in the arms, legs, and feet.

How to prevent leprosy?

There is no exact prevention for this disease as it spreads through nasal droplets therefore to avoid leprosy you should avoid close contact with the person who is suffering from leprosy and is prone to the infection.

Popular Questions & Answers

I have taken medicine recommend by my doctor for more then 2 years. I have taken r-cin 600 once a month, hansepran-100, wysolone-20, depson-100 daily. But for the last 5 months hansepran-100 is totally out of market and I am having reaction on my screen for the last 4 months. How can I get over this reaction?

DNB (Dermatology), MBBS, Diploma in Trichology - Cosmetology
Dermatologist, Hyderabad
Hansens disease need regular follow up and treatment. These reactions need to be properly tackled at hospital set up with oral steroids. All medications are available at govt leprosy centres for free of cost. Please do contact your doctor as early...

My friend is suffering laporsy he has taken mdt 1 year then again taken one year again take one year course first he has take 6 months course after two years new area affected then he has taken 1 years course after stopping medicine after 1&half years new patches found then he has taken ramfcin 600 once in a month dapsone 100 daily and ofalamac 200 mg daily takes but again after one year new area affected so please prescribe which medicines and how much time he should take to finish leprosy.

MBBS, Diploma in Venerology & Dermatology (DVD)
Dermatologist, Thane
Looks like he has got drug resistant leprosy. He will need to take medicines for a minimum of 2 years so that the recurrence is not there. Is he consistent in taking medicines because it is very important. He cannot miss any doses. He will need a ...
6 people found this helpful

There are lot's of brown spots on my face and they are increasing day by day. I need some suggestion please. Right now I am taking MB MDT leprosy pure neurotic hansen treatment for enlarged nerve of right hand. Please suggest me treatment for brown spots on my face.

MD - Dermatology , Venereology & Leprosy, Diploma In Dermatology And Venerology And Leprosy (DDVL), MBBS
Dermatologist, Bangalore
If you are taking Hansepran(Clofozimine) that may cause pigmentation.You apply Moiz Lmf 48 lotion once daily. you can consult privately with photos.

Is the leprosy are a viral disease? What ate the common symptoms of it & what precautions it must be taken to avoid that?

Dermatology Backed Expert Skin & Hair Care Solution
Dermatologist, Kolkata
Dear Lybrate user Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae.. It can present with light coloured patches with loss of sensation or red raised lesions over body.. Treatment for 12 months is needed to cure the disease..
4 people found this helpful

I want to know what is the best diet nutrition for leprosy patient and what is the side effect of dapsone and hansepran tablet.

General Physician, Jalgaon
Please Take plenty of water Take salads and fruits more Take high protein diet, avoiding non beg Avoid fish, rice, brinjals There are less side effects of dapsone and hensepran.
6 people found this helpful

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