What is Leprosy ? What Causes Leprosy ? How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ? How Is Leprosy Treated ?

-What is Leprosy ?

-What Causes Leprosy ?

-What Complications Can Occur With Leprosy ?

-How to Prevent Leprosy ?

-What are the Symptoms and Types of Leprosy ?

-How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ?

-How Is Leprosy Treated ?

-Life with Leprosy


What is Leprosy ?


Leprosy is the name given to a chronic, constantly progressive, contagious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy, or leprosy, is also known as Hansen's disease, after the scientist who discovered the bacteria that caused the disease in the 19th century.


Leprosy directly affects limbs such as arms and legs, extremities such as hands and feet, nerves called peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, skin, inner surface of the nose and mucous tissue in the upper respiratory tract.


What is Leprosy ? What Causes Leprosy ? How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ? How Is Leprosy Treated ?

Leprosy causes misshapen skin ulcers, damage to the nervous system, and muscle weakness. Leprosy, which is not treated and controlled, can cause serious disfigurement and significant disability in the individual.


Leprosy is one of the oldest known diseases in recorded history. The first known written reference to leprosy dates back to BC. It was recorded in the 7th century. Leprosy is particularly common in many countries with tropical or subtropical climates. Today, leprosy cases in the world are most common in India and Brazil.


What Causes Leprosy ?


Leprosy is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. Although medical professionals do not yet have conclusive evidence of how leprosy bacteria can spread, the infection is thought to be spread through contact with the mucosal secretions of an individual with leprosy. These secretions usually appear as airborne micro-droplets when a person with leprosy sneezes or coughs.


Apart from these droplets, leprosy is not very contagious. However, prolonged and repeated contact with an individual who is not being treated for leprosy can lead to the spread of leprosy. The bacterium responsible for leprosy multiplies very slowly.


According to the information given by the World Health Organization, the average incubation period of the disease, that is, the time between the first infection and the appearance of the first symptoms, is five years. In some cases, it may take up to twenty years for the first symptoms to appear.


According to research, an armadillo species native to the United States and Mexico can also carry this disease and transmit it to humans.


What Complications Can Occur With Leprosy ?


Late diagnosis and treatment of leprosy can cause serious and irreversible complications in the person. Complications of leprosy include kidney failure, inability to use hands and feet, erectile dysfunction, (iritis) iris inflammation, muscle weakness, infertility, permanent nerve damage in the arms and legs, blindness, chronic nasal congestion, nosebleeds, nasal septum collapse, damage to the optic nerves. Glaucoma, which is an eye disease that gives birth to the eye, has general hair loss, especially in the eyebrows and eyelashes, and anatomical deformity.


Loss of sensation in the nerves and limbs due to leprosy, and numbness of the limbs, may prevent the individual from reacting or noticing situations such as burning or cutting. This can lead to different infection problems in the long run.


What is Leprosy ? What Causes Leprosy ? How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ? How Is Leprosy Treated ?

How to Prevent Leprosy ?


The most effective way to prevent getting leprosy is to avoid prolonged close contact with untreated individuals with leprosy infection. It is also important to avoid contact with armadillo animals found in the southern region of the United States and around Mexico.


What are the Symptoms and Types of Leprosy ?


Leprosy has a few fairly obvious primary signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms of leprosy are most commonly observed on skin tissue, nerve cells, and mucous membranes.


Signs and symptoms that can be seen on the skin during the leprosy process include discolored, numb spots with numbness, ulcers on the soles of the feet, thick, hard or dry skin tissue, nodules, or growths, painless swellings on the face and ears, and hair loss.

Signs and symptoms of leprosy due to damage to nerves include numbness of the skin in the affected areas, muscle weakness or paralysis, especially in the hands and feet, thickening of nerve cells, and eye diseases that can lead to blindness when facial nerves are affected.


Lesions on the skin and damage to the nervous system result in decreased perception of touch, temperature, or pain. These lesions may not heal even after a few weeks after their appearance. Lesions have a paler tone than the individual's normal skin tone or may become reddened due to inflammation.


If leprosy is not treated, these signs and symptoms may progress and become more severe.


There are three systems used to classify leprosy in the world today.


The first system recognizes three different types of leprosy called tuberculoid leprosy, leprosy, and borderline leprosy. The immune response of individuals to the disease determines which type of leprosy they have according to this system.

In tuberculoid leprosy, the individual's immune response is good and effective. An individual with this type of infection exhibits only a few lesions. The signs and symptoms of the disease are mild and the contagion rate is also mild.


In lepromatous leprosy, however, the individual's immune response is weak. This type of leprosy also affects the skin, nerves, and other organs. Lesions on the skin are commonly observed, including large lumps and nodules in the form of bumps. This type of disease is more contagious.


In the borderline leprosy type, clinical features of both tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy are observed. Experts consider this type to be on the border between the other two types.


When a person with leprosy coughs or sneezes, they may emit droplets containing the M. leprae bacteria that another person inhales.


Prolonged close physical contact with an infected person is necessary for transmission of leprosy. Leprosy is not transmitted through brief contact, such as shaking hands during a meal, hugging, or sitting next to a person with leprosy on the bus or at the same dinner table. Expectant mothers with leprosy cannot pass it on to their unborn babies. Leprosy is not transmitted through sexual contact.


The second system used in the classification of leprosy is the classification system used by the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization categorizes leprosy by the type and number of skin areas affected by an individual. Accordingly, the name of the first category is pakibacilli. Here, five or fewer lesions are seen on the body, and bacteria cannot be detected in samples taken from the skin. The second category is called multibacilli. In this category, more than five lesions are observed on the skin or bacteria can be detected in the samples taken from the skin.


Medical and clinical studies on leprosy use the Ridley-Jopling system. Here, five classifications are made according to the severity of signs and symptoms.


A few flat lesions, some of which are large and numb, are seen in the tuberculoid leprosy class. Minor damage to the nerves may be observed. At this stage, the lesions may heal on their own, persist or progress to a more severe state.

Borderline tuberculoid leprosy is the second class of the Ridley-Jopling system. Most of the symptoms are similar to tuberculoid leprosy, but more lesions and more nerve-related problems are observed. The leprosy may revert from this stage to the tuberculoid state or progress to another and more severe form.


In moderate leprosy, there may be reddish plaques, moderate numbness, swollen lymph nodes, or problems with further nerve damage. Leprosy can also regress at this stage, stay in the same stage, or progress by getting worse.


In borderline lepromatous leprosy, multiple lesions are seen, including flat lesions, bumps, plaques, and nodules. Numbness caused by nerve damage in the body is more common. At this stage, leprosy may also regress, continue as it is, or become more severe by progressing.


Lepromatous leprosy is the last class of the Ridley-Jopling system. At this stage, many lesions with bacteria on the skin and hair loss are observed. With the nerve thickening of the peripheral, that is, the limb nerves, more severe nervous system-related problems are observed. Weakness in the limbs and deformity in the body appear prominently. Leprosy at this stage does not return to lower stages.


In addition, there is a form of leprosy called indefinite leprosy that is not included in the Ridley-Jopling classification system. This type of leprosy is considered a very early type of leprosy, in which the individual has a single skin lesion that is slightly numb to the touch. Indeterminate leprosy may become one of the five types of leprosy in the Ridley-Jopling system over time.


How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ?


The doctor will perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of the disease in the individual. If the doctor deems it necessary, he may remove a small skin or nerve and perform a biopsy that is sent to the laboratory for testing.


A lepromine skin test may also be done by the doctor to determine the shape of the leprosy. In this skin test, the bacteria that normally cause leprosy is neutralized and a very small amount is injected into the skin, typically the upper forearm. Individuals with tuberculoid or borderline tuberculoid leprosy show a positive response to this injection at the injection site.


What is Leprosy ? What Causes Leprosy ? How Is Leprosy Diagnosed ? How Is Leprosy Treated ?

How Is Leprosy Treated ?


Leprosy is a treatable disease. WHO developed a multidrug therapy to cure all forms of leprosy in 1995. It is possible to obtain this medicine free of charge worldwide. In the last two decades, approximately 16 million leprosy patients worldwide have been cured in this way.


In addition, some antibiotics can treat leprosy by killing the bacteria that cause leprosy. In many cases, more than one of the antibiotics is prescribed for simultaneous use.


While the treatment for leprosy may continue for months, some cases require continuous treatment for 1 to 2 years.


Life With Leprosy


If leprosy is diagnosed before it becomes severe, the situation is more favorable for the individual. Early treatment prevents further tissue damage, stops the spread of the disease, and prevents serious health complications.


It is very important to use the drugs given during the treatment of leprosy as directed by the doctor. In particular, early discontinuation of antibiotics can cause bacteria to come back more resistant.

Individuals who experience numbness in new areas during the treatment should report this to the doctor and act more carefully considering that they may have difficulty in recognizing the damage that may occur due to burning or cutting in these areas.


However, the situation is more unfavorable for the individual when the diagnosis is made at a later stage after the individual has significant deformity or disability. However, appropriate treatment should still be applied to prevent further body damage and prevent the spread of the disease to others.


Despite a successful course of antibiotics, permanent medical complications can occur, depending on the stage at which leprosy is stopped. However, the doctor must work with the individual to provide appropriate care to help the individual cope with and manage any remaining condition.

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