Leprosy is derived from the Greek work lepra meaning to make the skin scaly. It is one of the oldest diseases which had already existed before now. Leprosy among other diseases is another chronic disease caused by a bacterium that affects the skin. It is a contagious disease.
It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Mycobacterium leprae is aerobic in nature, acid-fast and rod-like in shape. Leprosy can also be called HANSEN’S DISEASE (HD). It can stay in the body for a very long period of time without causing any significant problem in the body and its symptoms may appear from 5 to 20 years after. It has very significant symptoms which can easily be noticeable.
However, Hansen’s disease is of various types and one’s immune response to Hansen’s disease depends on which type of leprosy is affecting him or her.
Basically, Hansen’s disease affects the skin, the nerves, upper respiratory tract and lining of the olfactory organ. If not treated at an early stage can lead to disfigure and significant disabilities. It can be spread through contact with the mucosal secretion of an infected person.
In the present world, it seems there are very rare cases of Hansen’s disease like in the United states, only 150 to 250 cases are reported annually and globally almost 180,000 cases of leprosy are being reported annually. It is very common in regions with tropical and subtropical climatic condition.
Types of Leprosy
There are 6 (six) types of leprosy which are:
- Intermediate Leprosy: This is the originating stage of the disease. If the immune system of the patient is strong any developing lesion will automatically get healed.
- Tuberculoid Leprosy: This type has a mild effect. Patients usually have flat and pale-coloured skin and the nerves are usually damaged leading to reduced or no sensation. If not carefully managed, it can persist to a severe type. In tuberculoid leprosy, the immune response is good and few lesions are usually developed.
- Borderline Tuberculoid Leprosy: This arise from tuberculoid leprosy. Symptoms are usually little and can linger back to tuberculoid leprosy.
- Mid-Borderline Tuberculoid Leprosy:It develops from the above borderline tuberculoid. Symptoms are reddish plague with numbness.
- Lepromatous: This is the most severe type of the disease. It is accompanied by high number of lesions with the bacterium. The patient that suffers from it develops bumps, numbness, rashes, hair loss, weakness on the hands and legs. It can go as far as affecting the penis, nose and kidney.
- Borderline Leprosy: In borderline Hansen’s disease the patient develops scars, flat, bumps and wounds on the skin.
Causes of Leprosy
It is caused by close contact with an infected person or a contact with mouse droplet.
Since Hansen’s disease is a contagious disease, it can also be spread by airborne respiratory droplets or nasal mucus such as cough and sneezes.
It has also been suggested but without prove that it can be transmitted by mosquitoes and bed bug.
Symptoms of Leprosy
The symptoms that accompany Hansen’s disease is usually outstanding. The main symptoms of leprosy include:
- General weakness of the muscles
- Redness on the skin with patches and little or no sensation on the spot
- Numbness and weakness in the arms, hands, feet and legs
- Pains in the joints
- Reduced sensitivity or skin lesion – The sufferer no longer feel touches, or pains as usual and loss of temperature sensation.
- Emaciation –This is the loss of weight
- Skin lesion
- Light skin toning- It renders the texture of the skin to be lighter than normal
- Dry scalp
Effects of Leprosy
The following are the effects as well as complications:
- It can lead to skin cancer
- It affects the skin at first and moves through the peripheral nerves to other parts of the body
- Nerve injury
- Weight loss
- It can disfigure the face
- Leprosy can lead to blindness
- Damage of the nose
- It can result in nose bleeding
- Leprosy can affect the kidney leading to kidney failure
- It causes damage to the brain nerves called peripheral nerves
- It makes the muscles weak
- Leprosy reduce the amount of testosterone in men which leads to infertility
- Leprosy can also lead to erectile dysfunction
- Loss of hair on the eyebrow and eye lashes
- Nasal congestion
Medical Ways to Treat Leprosy
Since Hansen’s disease is caused by a bacterium, antibiotics play a very vital role in treating this infection as well as anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, prednisone and thalidomide (this should not be taken by pregnant women.
Examples of antibiotics that is used in treating leprosy include:
Note the underlisted drugs must be taken by the doctor’s prescription.
Note that in 1995, the World Health Organization (WHO) unleashed a multidrug therapy that cures all types of Hansen’s disease.
Natural Ways to Treat Leprosy
- Chalmoorga Oil: A mixture of chalmoorga oil and lemon juice possess a cooling effect which helps to relief the pains and burns. Make a paste by the combination of chalmoorga oil with lemon juice and apply it on the flats, scars, scalps and other developed symptoms on the skin.
- Use of Rhizomes Herbs: Rhizomes such as ginger and its leaves contains antibacterial and anti-inflammation properties. It helps in reducing inflammation in the joints and a paste made from it dan be rubbed on the affected part.
- Diets with Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Dairy foods such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel etc contains high level of omega 3 fatty acid which helps in reducing inflammation.
- Eat fruits that contains zinc
How to Diagnose Leprosy
There are several ways in which leprosy can be diagnosed and they include:
- By conducting a physical examination to view the outstanding signs on the body
- It can also be diagnosed by cutting of a small portion of the skin and taken to the laboratory for examination. This process is called BIOPSY .
- It can also be diagnosed medically by carrying out lepromin skin test. Lepromin skin test is done by injecting a small amount of the bacterium causing Hansen’s disease into the forearm to determine the form of leprosy. Note that the injected bacterium has been deactivated from it attacking effect.