Leprosy is a chronic, progressive form of bacterial infection brought about by the Mycobacterium leprae bacterium. It mainly affects the nerves in the extremities, upper respiratory tract and lining of the nose.
The condition causes skin sores, muscle weakness and damage to the nerves. If not properly treated, it can lead to significant disfigurement and disability.
It is one of the oldest recorded diseases and common in various countries particularly those with tropical or sub-tropical climates.
How does it spread?
Leprosy is generally transmitted via contact with the mucus of an infected individual. This typically occurs if the infected individual coughs or sneezes. Remember that the disease is not highly contagious but close, repeated exposure to an untreated person can put one at risk for acquiring the disease.
The bacteria multiply in a very slow manner. It has an incubation period of up to 5 years and the symptoms might not arise for up to 20 years.
The chief signs of leprosy include:
- Skin lesions
- Muscular weakness
- Numbness of the arms, hands, feet and legs
The skin lesions that form have reduced sensation to temperature, touch or pain. They do not heal after several weeks and lighter in appearance than the normal skin tone.
Management of leprosy
A multidrug therapy has been utilized to cure all forms of leprosy and available globally. In addition, various antibiotics are used to manage leprosy by eliminating the bacteria responsible for it. The commonly used antibiotics include:
The doctor might prescribe more than one antibiotic at the same time. An anti-inflammatory drug such as prednisone, aspirin or orthalidomide. Take note that thalidomide should not be taken if pregnant since it can cause severe birth defects.