Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease of the skin. Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. This disease particularly affects the mucous membranes of the skin and nerves, the hands and feet and also sometimes in the lining of the nose. The disease is mainly prevalent in Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the Far East, and Central and South America. Anyone can get leprosy, but children seem to be more susceptible than adults. Leprosy is a rare disease in United States.
(Last Updated on : 28/01/2009)
The best way to prevent the spread of leprosy is the early diagnosis and treatment of people who are infected. For household contacts, immediate and annual examinations are recommended for at least five years after last contact with a person who is infectious. A doctor who is experienced in the field should treat patients with leprosy. Treatment for the disease is usually done with multiple drugs for six months to two years.
Introduction to Leprosy symptoms
When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause leprosy, the bacteria begin to multiply within the body. After three to five years, symptoms of leprosy will usually begin. This period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is the 'leprosy incubation period.' Although the incubation period is typically between three and five years, it can range from six months to several decades. Once a person starts experiencing symptoms, they can range in type and severity. Symptoms can also vary based on the form of leprosy that a person has.
Causes and Symptoms: According to modern medicine the causative organism of leprosy is Mycobacterium leprae. It was discovered in 1872. There are two distinct types of leprosy. These can be named as tuberculoid and lepromatous. The differentiation is important since the former runs a relatively benign course and is often self-healing, whereas the latter is a steadily progressive form of the disease. The distinction cannot be always made because mixed symptoms are also found in many cases. The symptoms involve the skin as well as the nervous system. The skin manifestations range from areas of whitening of the skin to massive nodules. These are often visible on the bodies of lepers. The nerve involvement may be that of pain in certain centers. Total loss of feeling in certain parts of the body can also be seen in some serious cases. The eyes may be affected, leading to total blindness. Ulcers may also occur in the mouth and the larynx. There are tragic cases of deformity when the fingers fall off at the joints, leaving only the palms over which the entire skin starts rotting.
According to Ayurveda aggravation of all the three doshas of the body is the causative factor in leprosy. The two main divisions of kushta roga can be named as mahakushta, which is of seven types, and kshudra kushta, which is of eleven types. In the latter category are included leprous afflictions, which are confined only to the skin.
Eczema, ecthyosis-where the skin resembles the scales of a fish, xerodermia pigmentosa-where the skin is dry and resembles the skin of an elephant, psoriasis-in which the skin turns black and coarse, rhagades-splitting of the skin on the hands and feet, lichen-acute itch and boils, ringworm, excoriation-destruction of small areas of the surface of the skin or mucous membrane, scabies, bullae, erythemas-these are all the various forms of leprosy according to Ayurveda.