Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention of Leprosy (Hansen disease)

Leprosy (Hansen disease)

The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae is the source of the chronic, progressive infection known as leprosy. The upper respiratory tract, skin, nose lining, and nerves of the extremities are the main areas affected. Hansen’s disease is another name for leprosy.
Skin ulcers, damaged nerves, and weakened muscles are all symptoms of Hansen’s disease. It can result in severe deformity and substantial impairment if untreated. Leprosy can be cured, and early treatment can reduce disability.

Leprosy is a chronic illness that has been mentioned in ancient civilizations’ literature for ages. People with the condition have frequently been shunned by their families and communities throughout history.
Although leprosy was previously treated in a variety of ways, the first innovation came about in the 1940s with the creation of the drug dapsone. Compliance was challenging because the course of treatment extended for many years, perhaps a lifetime. The only treatment for leprosy at the time, dapsone, started to lose its effectiveness against M. leprae in the 1960s. Rifampicin and clofazimine were found in the early 1960s and were added to the treatment plan, which was later known as multidrug therapy (MDT).WHO endorsed MDT in 1981. The medications dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine make up the current MDT regimen. For paucibacillary instances, this treatment lasts six months, and for multi-bacillary cases, it lasts 12 months. MDT eliminates the infection while healing the patient. Since 1981, WHO has offered MDT without charge. The Nippon Foundation initially provided funding for Free MDT, which has been donated since 2000 as part of a contract with Novartis that will last until 2025.
Over the past 20 years, MDT has been used to treat more than 16 million leprosy patients. Many nations have noticed an overall, albeit modest, decline in the number of new cases. In 2019, the number of new cases fell to 202 256. A few nations reported fewer cases, including 45 nations with no leprosy cases.

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Hansen’s disease’s primary signs and symptoms include:

● Patches of skin that may be red or have lost their color.
● Patches of skin without or with decreased sensation.
● Your hands, feet, arms, and legs may feel numb or tingly.
● burns or wounds that cause no pain in the hands and feet.
● muscle sluggishness

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) patients may also experience:

● stiff or thick skin.

● periphery nerves that are larger.

● loss of eyebrows or eyelashes

● nasal blockage

● Nosebleeds.

When the illness is advanced, it may result in:

● Paralysis.

● Loss of vision

● Alteration to the nose.

● Injury to the hands and feet that is permanent.

● The fingers and toes become shorter.

● Ulcers on the bottom of the feet that are chronic and don’t heal.

After contracting the Mycobacterium leprae infection, leprosy symptoms take between three and five years to manifest. It may potentially take up to two decades in rare circumstances. It is challenging for medical professionals to pinpoint the time and location of the infection because of this.

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Is Hansen’s disease(leprosy) contagious?

Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) can spread from person to person even if it is not very contagious. Though the exact mechanism by which the illness spreads from one person to another is not entirely understood by experts, it is thought that an infected individual’s coughing or sneezing can transfer the bacterium through airborne droplets. Bacteria can be inhaled by other people when they discharge into the environment. Hugging, shaking hands, sitting next to an infected individual, or even sexual contact won’t spread Hansen’s disease.

It’s crucial to remember that the majority of people are naturally resistant to Mycobacterium leprae. In actuality, only 5% of the general population is actually susceptible to leprosy (Hansen’s disease).

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How is Leprosy diagnosed?

A skin biopsy will be done if your doctor suspects you have leprosy or Hansen’s disease. A small sample of tissue will be removed during this process and sent to a lab for examination.

How is leprosy treated?

A strategy that mixes various medicines is known as multidrug therapy (MDT), and it is used to treat leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease). The majority of the time, your doctor will recommend two to three different antibiotics at once. This aids in the prevention of antibiotic resistance, which develops when bacteria mutate and resist the antibiotics that ordinarily kill them. Dapsone, rifampin, and clofazimine are typical antibiotics used to treat Hansen’s disease. The potential nerve damage that Hansen’s illness may cause cannot be treated with antibiotics. To treat any nerve discomfort, your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications, such as steroids.

What is the length of recovery following leprosy treatment?

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) treatment often lasts between one and two years. Your healthcare professional will keep an eye on your development during this period.

How is Leprosy prevented?

prevention of Leprosy at a household level

As we saw with Covid-19, some infections are extremely contagious and demand that patients be quarantined, even inside their own homes. Not one of those illnesses is leprosy.
If you are aware that a member of your family has been diagnosed with leprosy, therapy for the condition should have begun long ago. Three antibiotics are used to cure leprosy, and after treatment has begun, the patient is no longer contagious and cannot spread the disease. This approach is known as multidrug therapy.

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Preventing leprosy at the level of public health.

Governments and leprosy NGOs like The Leprosy Mission collaborate to distribute an antibiotic that can prevent leprosy in communities all over the world. People who are most at risk of contracting the disease are receiving this antibiotic (Rifampicin). Using this strategy is referred to as post-exposure prophylaxis (or PEP for short). It is crucial that you accept PEP if you are given the option, as instructed by the medical practitioner.

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