Leprosy is a slowly developing, progressive disease that damages the skin and nervous system.
- Leprosy is caused by an infection with Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis bacteria.
- Early symptoms begin in cooler areas of the body and include loss of sensation.
- Signs of leprosy are painless ulcers, skin lesions of hypopigmented macules (flat, pale areas of skin), and eye damage (dryness, reduced blinking). Later, large ulcerations, loss of digits, skin nodules, and facial disfigurement may develop.
- The infection is thought to be spread person to person by nasal secretions or droplets. Leprosy is rarely transmitted from chimpanzees, mangabey monkeys, and nine-banded armadillos to humans by droplets or direct contact.
- Susceptibility to getting leprosy may be due to certain human genes.
- Antibiotics are used in the treatment of leprosy.
Although pediatricians and primary care doctors usually follow patients with leprosy, initial diagnosis and treatment is often done in consultation with infectious disease specialists, dermatologists, neurologists, and/or immunologists. Some patients may require consultation with a surgeon to restore some functions of movement and/or do cosmetic repairs.
Since the disease often appeared in family members, some people thought it was hereditary. Other people noted that if there was little or no contact with infected individuals, the disease did not infect others. Consequently, some cultures considered infected people (and occasionally their close relatives) as “unclean” or as “lepers” and ruled they could not associate with uninfected people. Often infected people had to wear special clothing and ring bells so uninfected people could avoid them.
Leprosy testing skin biopsy is done where a small skin section is extracted and sent to pathologist for examination a lepromin skin test is also done to confirm the presence of leprosy