General Health

What happens in Leprosy or Hansen’s Disease?

The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae causes leprosy, which is a chronic, progressive bacterial illness. The distal nerves, the epidermis, the nasal lining, and the upper respiratory tract are the most typically impacted. Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease. Skin ulcers, nerve damage, and fragile muscles are all symptoms of Hansen’s disease. It can result in severe deformity and substantial impairment if left untreated.

Hansen’s illness is one of the most ancient diseases known to man since time immemorial. The earliest documented mention of Hansen’s illness was from 600BC.

Leprosy is not a highly contagious disease and the patients can live with their belongings, attend school, and work.

In 2018, there were 209,000 cases of leprosy worldwide, compared to 5.2 million in the 1980s. In 2016, there were 216,000 new cases. A total of 14 nations account for the majority of new cases, with India accounting for more than half of all new cases. Between 1994 and 2014, 16 million people were cured of leprosy all across the world. People with leprosy are segregated in leper colonies in several regions of India, China, Africa, and Thailand. A leper colony, also known by many other names, is an isolated community for the quarantining and treating lepers, people suffering from Hansen’s disease.

For thousands of years, humanity has been afflicted with leprosy. The illness is named after the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. Social stigma has historically been connected with leprosy, which continues to be a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment. Many people find the term “leper” distasteful and prefer to use the phrase “person infected by leprosy.” Leprosy is a tropical illness that is often overlooked. In 1954, World Leprosy Day was established to raise awareness. Every year on the final Sunday in January, World Leprosy Day is held.

Signs and symptoms

The skin, nerves, and mucous membranes (the soft, moist tissues right within the body’s openings) are all affected.

Symptoms of the condition on the skin include:

  • Patches of discoloured skin that are normally flat, numb, and appear fading (lighter than the skin around)
  • On the skin, nodules (growths)
  • Thickening, stiffening, or drying of the skin
  • Not-so-painful ulcers on the soles of the feet
  • Swelling or non-painful lumps on the cheekbones or earlobes
  • Loss of eyelashes or brows

Nerve injury causes the following symptoms:

  • Skin numbness in the afflicted areas
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis is a condition in which muscles are weak or paralyse (especially in the hands and feet)
  • Nerves that have grown in size (especially those around the elbow and knee and in the sides of the neck)
  • Problems with the eyes that could lead to blindness

The condition causes the following symptoms in the mucous membranes:

  • Rhinorrhea
  • Nosebleeds

Because Hansen’s disease affects the nerves, it can cause a loss of feeling or sensation. When a person loses their sense of touch, injuries like burns may go undiscovered. Because you may not feel the discomfort that signals that anything is wrong with your body, exercise extra caution to ensure that the affected areas are not hurt.

If untreated, advanced leprosy can cause the following symptoms:

  • Hand and foot paralysis and crippling
  • Reabsorption causes toes and fingers to shorten.
  • Ulcers on the bottoms of the feet that do not heal
  • Blindness
  • A loss of brows
  • Disfigurement of the nose

Leprosy can have a variety of effects on people. Incubation lasts on average five years. Symptoms may appear within the first year of infection or up to 20 years afterwards. The development of pale or pink-coloured areas of skin that are unresponsive to cold or pain is often the first visible sign of leprosy. Nerve disorders, such as numbness or discomfort in the hands or feet, can occasionally accompany or precede patches of discoloured skin. The immunological response of a person varies based on the type of leprosy they possess.

Nerve damage affects approximately 30% of leprosy patients. It can be reversed when addressed early, but it can become permanent if therapy is delayed for several months. Nerve damage can result in a loss of muscle function, which can lead to paralysis. It can also cause numbness or strange sensations, leading to further infections, ulcerations, and joint deformities.


 Yash Batra

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