Leprosy is a bacterial disease that leads to disfigurement of the limbs and facial tissues. The following article provides a brief overview of this infectious disease, with respect to the causes, symptoms and treatment options available.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is an infectious disease that has progresses slowly, and mostly affects the cooler parts of the body. According to experts, the time taken by this disease to develop may range from a mere six months to 40 years. The areas of the body such as the eyes, earlobes, hands, testicles and nose are the ones which show the first signs of this disease. If left untreated, the disease may cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, as well as the eyes and limbs.
Mycobacterium leprae and M. lepromatosis are the organisms responsible for causing this disease. The first bacterium is aerobic and rod-shaped organism, that is known to thrive in certain human and animal cells. In case of humans, cells that cover and protect the nerve axons are known to be the targets of these bacteria. The latter one, however, has been identified recently, and is being characterized and studied. These bacteria show an optimum growth at temperatures of 80.9-86 °F, and hence the cooler areas of the body tend to be affected.
As mentioned, leprosy progresses slowly, and the symptoms tend to be of a subtle nature and are not detected easily. Moreover, by the time the classic symptoms occur, the disease might already have reached an extreme stage. The common symptoms include:
- Loss of sensation of hot or cold temperatures
- Sensation of pain declines
- Ulcers which do not seem to pain
- Skin lesions
- Dry eyes
- Blinking less often
- Loss of digits
- Disfigurement of the limbs and facial parts
Most cases of leprosy are generally treated with the help of antibiotics. The nature and stage of the disease determines the dosage and duration for which the drugs would be administered. According to experts, antibiotic treatment is prescribed for about 6-12 months, or more in some cases. Also, it is known that, whatever damage that has been incurred by the body because of the condition, before the administration of antibiotics, is irreversible.
Avoiding contact with the fluids of the patient, is considered to be the only way to prevent the spread of infection to others. If antibiotics are administered properly, then the risk of spreading the disease to others reduces by a great extent. However, it should also be known, that unlike what most people think, this disease is not highly contagious. In fact, about 95% of exposures result in no disease.
As of now, there is no vaccine which can provide immunity against leprosy. However, proper usage of drugs is highly effective in treating this disease. The World Health Organization has made diligent efforts to reduce the incidence of leprosy. There has been a 20% reduction in the number of cases, according to the reports for the year 2003-2004.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.