Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease. It is caused by Mycobacterium leprae and it multiplies slowly. Leprosy can also be called Hansen’s disease. This disease is an old age disease and is curable if treated in the early stages, it can prevent disability.
It mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract as well as the eyes. In severe cases, a person with leprosy may have multiple injuries due to lack of sensation, and eventually the body may reabsorb the affected areas over time, resulting in the apparent loss of toes and fingers.
The disease is likely to be transmitted through airborne respiratory droplets (coughs or sneezes) from the nose and mouth. It can also be transmitted by close and frequent contact with untreated cases, however it is not recommended to ostracize patients because of their condition as it is not as highly contagious as it was due to the effective treatment that is now available.
The World Health Organization recommended MDT regimen in 1981. MDT consists of dapsone, rifapcin and clofazimine and the treatment kills the pathogen and cures a patient. Multidrug therapy can be used to cure leprosy, untreated leprosy can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevents certain disabilities that can result from the disease.
Once a person starts treatment, the disease is no longer contagious, the person can continue working and leading an active life, however it is important to finish the entire course of the treatment as directed by the doctor. Improving access to treatment will help in creating a world free from leprosy and continued commitment to fighting the stigma surrounding the disease through education and awareness will also bring an environment that is safe.