What is leprosy? Diagnosis and Treatment Options

What is leprosy

Leprosy, medically referred to as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a progressive infectious disease triggered by a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium lepromatosis, or Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. Primarily impacting the skin, mucous membranes (including those of the upper respiratory tract, nasal lining, and ocular surfaces), and peripheral nerves, leprosy manifests as skin discoloration and nodules (cutaneous lesions), nerve impairment, muscular weakness, and in severe instances, disfigurement and deformities. Presently, the prevalence of leprosy is predominantly observed in tropical regions of Africa and Asia.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an ancient chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It has been recorded throughout history, and was highly stigmatized in medieval Europe and the Middle East.

In the United States, leprosy is rare, with about 150-250 cases reported each year.

Leprosy primarily affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract, and eyes, causing numbness, deformities, and disfigurement.

Early signs and symptoms include skin lesions, numbness or loss of feeling in affected areas, and weakness in the hands or feet.

The severity of symptoms depends on the type of leprosy, as well as the immune response of the affected individual.

Leprosy has a low mortality rate if properly treated, but can be fatal if left untreated.

Diagnosis is based on clinical presentation, biopsy of affected tissue, and/or PCR testing of skin samples.

Treatment involves a combination of antibiotics such as dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine, which suppress the growth of M. leprae and improve the immune response.

Leprosy does confer acquired immunity, but the duration and degree of protection is unclear. Cure rates are high with treatment, and life expectancy after leprosy is similar to that of the general population.


Verified by: Dr.Diab (March 25, 2024)

Citation: Dr.Diab. (March 25, 2024). What is leprosy? Diagnosis and Treatment Options. Medcoi Journal of Medicine, 5(2). urn:medcoi:article20788.

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