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The World Leprosy Day: A Complete Guide To Hansen's Disease

Written and reviewed by
Dr.(Col.)Anil Goyal 93% (674ratings)
The World Leprosy Day: A Complete Guide To Hansen's Disease

Every year the world leprosy day is observed internationally on the last Sunday (30 January 2022) of January. The day has been observed to aware people of Leprosy or Hansen's Disease. Leprosy is a bacterial infection. It is caused by the slow proliferation of bacteria called  Mycobacterium leprae. At first, the disease seems asymptomatic. It takes years for the symptoms to appear in an affected individual. Mainly skin is affected after the development of leprosy along with peripheral nerves, eyes, and upper respiratory tract mucosa.

Symptoms of Leprosy

Important symptoms related to the disease include discolored and numb skin patches which are seen as a faded area, the presence of nodules on the skin, the disappearance of eyebrows or eyelashes, dry and thick skin, and ulcers on the feet.

How Is Leprosy Transmitted?

The transmission of the disease usually takes place when an individual comes in contact with the droplets coming out of an affected individual after coughing or sneezing. It has a high risk of spreading due to prolonged and frequent contact with the infected person unknowingly.

Leprosy cannot be transmitted with just casual contact with an affected person. In other words, we cannot be infected with the disease by hugging or hand-shaking with the affected ones or having meals together with them, or sitting at a common place like in a bus. Moreover, the infection cannot be passed to the developing fetus when the mother is having the disease. Sexual contact is also not responsible for it.

Social Stigma Associated With Leprosy

Hansen’s disease or Leprosy has always been surrounded by social stigma because of its infectious nature and disability caused in the affected individuals. This is responsible for social isolation, leading to moral and emotional trauma to the suffering person. However, evolution in the medical field has made treatment effortless and approachable for the general mass.

In case Hansen’s disease or Leprosy is left untreated or in case of delayed treatment, serious neurological consequences can occur. Permanent nerve damage is a severe complication leading to paralysis and crippling of hands as well as feet. Hence, an early diagnosis is key for the control and management of Hansen’s disease.

The disease, which is characterized by typical skin lesions and neuropathy is difficult to diagnose most of the time. It totally depends on the awareness of the consulting physician, about the signs and symptoms of the disease. A delayed diagnosis may lead to a permanent disability of the affected individual.

Diagnosis

Important ways to be considered regarding the diagnosis of leprosy include the following :

  • A person is having a non-responsive skin lesion and belongs to a country having a higher prevalence rate of leprosy

  • The affected individual has a long referral history related to multiple physicians.

  • Presence of skin lesions in a localized form which is raised or flat, light in color or deeply pigmented, and feeling a loss of sensation in the affected region.

  • Thickening of peripheral nerves can be visualized as one of the cardinal signs.

There are actually no skin tests or serological tests for diagnosing the disease. Only skin biopsies are preferred for confirmation. The cases which are under delayed diagnosis may include complications already present in the affected person. Arthritis, neuritis, acute inflammatory lesions, loss of sensations, and weakness in the limbs are some of the observed features in such patients.

Diagnosis of Hansen’s disease is followed by a complete treatment which primarily involves Multidrug therapy (MDT). It includes the application of three antibiotics i.e Dapsone, rifampicin, and Clofazimine. A combination of Dapsone and Rifampicin is preferred either alone or along with Clofazimine.

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