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Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Overview of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Leprosy Meaning in Urdu!

جذام یا کوڑھ ایک متعدی بیماری ہے جو کہ عام طور پر جلد، آنکھوں، اور اعصاب کو متاثر کرتی ہے، تاہم یہ بیماری ایک مریض سے صحت مند شخص میں اس وقت منتقل ہو گی جب صحت مند شخص کئی مہینوں تک مریض کے قریب رہے گا۔ یہ بیماری مائلین بیکٹیریا کی وجہ سے لاحق ہوتی ہے۔ ان لوگوں میں جذام کا خطرہ زیادہ ہوتا ہے جو غذائیت سے محروم ہوں، وہ افراد بھی جذام کے خطرے کا شکار ہوتے ہیں جہاں پر جذام سے بچاؤ کی حفاظتی تدابیر بروئے کار نہیں لائیں جاتیں۔ جذام کے مریضوں کو خصوصی طور پر علاج کی ضرورت ہوتی ہے، اس کے علاج کے لیے عام طور پر اینٹی بائیوٹکس ادویات استعمال کی جاتی ہیں۔ جذام کی تشخیص اس کی علامات اور نمونہ کی بنا پر کی جاتی ہے۔

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. The disease primarily affects the skin, nerves, and mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. 

Leprosy is a slow-developing disease, and symptoms may take several years to appear. The early signs of leprosy include skin lesions, which may be discolored or numb. Over time, the disease can lead to more severe symptoms, including deformity, nerve damage, and blindness. Leprosy is transmitted through prolonged contact with an infected person, although it is not highly contagious.

Prevalence of Leprosy

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), leprosy is a neglected tropical disease which still occurs in more than 120 countries, with more than 200 000 new cases reported every year.

Although leprosy has been eliminated as a public health problem globally (defined as a prevalence of less than 1 case per 10,000 population), pockets of high prevalence still exist in certain areas, and the stigma associated with the disease can result in underreporting and delayed diagnosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Leprosy can present with a wide range of symptoms, which can vary depending on the type and severity of the disease. Some people with leprosy may have mild or no symptoms, while others may experience more severe symptoms. 

 

The symptoms of leprosy can develop slowly over several years, making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Here are some common symptoms of leprosy:

  1. Skin symptoms: One of the most common symptoms of leprosy is skin lesions or patches. These patches may be pale, reddish, or copper-colored and may be numb to the touch. The patches may be dry or scaly, and hair may fall out in the affected area.
  2. Nerve symptoms: Leprosy can affect the nerves and cause numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. In some cases, the nerves in the hands and feet may become damaged, leading to loss of sensation and difficulty with fine motor skills.
  3. Eye symptoms: Leprosy can cause damage to the eyes, leading to blindness or impaired vision. It can occur when bacteria invade the eyelids, cornea, or other structures in the eye.
  4. Other symptoms: Other symptoms of leprosy may include fever, fatigue, joint pain, and swelling.

It is important to note that the symptoms of leprosy can be similar to other medical conditions, so consulting a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis is essential. With early diagnosis and treatment, leprosy is highly treatable and curable.

Types of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

There are several types of leprosy, which are classified based on the severity of the disease and the type of symptoms that the affected person is experiencing. The two main types of leprosy are

  1. Tuberculoid Leprosy: This type of leprosy is less severe and affects the skin and nerves. It is characterized by one or a few well-defined skin lesions, usually numb to the touch. The affected person may also experience nerve damage, leading to muscle weakness and loss of sensation in the affected area.
  2. Lepromatous Leprosy: This type of leprosy is more severe and affects multiple organs, including the skin, nerves, eyes, and mucous membranes. It is characterized by widespread skin lesions that may be smooth, shiny, and pale. The affected person may also experience nerve damage, muscle weakness, and loss of sensation.
  3. Borderline Leprosy: This type is intermediate between tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy. It contains features of both types.

Causes of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

The exact mode of transmission of the bacterium causing Leprosy is not fully understood, but it spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth.

Leprosy is not highly contagious, and most people who come into contact with the bacterium do not develop the disease. Factors that can increase the risk of developing leprosy include:

  • Prolonged and close contact with an infected person
  • Living in or traveling to areas where leprosy is endemic
  • Weakened immune system due to other medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS
  • Poor living conditions, such as overcrowding and poor hygiene

It is important to note that leprosy is not caused by a curse or punishment from a higher power, as was once believed in some cultures. Leprosy is a bacterial infection and anyone can contract it, regardless of social or religious beliefs.

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Risk Factors of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Several risk factors can increase a person's likelihood of developing leprosy, including:

  • Exposure to an infected person: Leprosy is primarily transmitted through prolonged and close contact with an infected person, so individuals in frequent contact with someone having the disease are at higher risk.
  • Living in endemic areas: Leprosy is more common in certain parts of the world, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. Living in or traveling to these areas can increase the risk of exposure to the disease.
  • Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who are undergoing treatment for cancer, are more susceptible to infections, including leprosy.
  • Poor living conditions: Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate access to healthcare can increase the risk of leprosy, as these factors can facilitate the transmission of the disease.
  • Genetics: Some research suggests the genetic component of leprosy, meaning that certain genetic factors may make some people more susceptible to the disease.

It is important to note that leprosy is not highly contagious, and most people who come into contact with the bacterium do not develop the disease. If you are at higher risk of leprosy, practice good hygiene, avoid prolonged and close contact with people with the disease, and seek medical attention if you notice any symptoms. 

 

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Prevention

Preventing leprosy involves taking several measures to avoid exposure to the bacteria that causes the disease. Here are some ways to prevent leprosy:

  • Vaccination: There is currently no vaccine to prevent leprosy, but research is ongoing to develop one. Some experimental vaccines have shown promising results in animal studies.
  • Early detection and treatment: If you notice any symptoms of leprosy, such as skin lesions, numbness, or muscle weakness, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the disease from progressing and reduce the risk of transmission to others.
  • Good hygiene: Practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding sharing personal items, can help reduce the risk of exposure to the bacteria that causes leprosy.
  • Avoid prolonged and close contact with people having leprosy: Although leprosy is not highly contagious, prolonged and close contact with an infected person can increase the risk of transmission. If you have close contact with someone having leprosy, take precautions to avoid exposure to the bacteria.
  • Control of leprosy in the community: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a multi-drug therapy regimen for treating and controlling leprosy in the community. It involves treating affected individuals with a combination of antibiotics and identifying and treating anyone who may have come into contact with the disease.

By following these measures, individuals can reduce their risk of developing leprosy and prevent the spread of the disease in the community.

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Diagnosis

Leprosy is diagnosed through clinical examination, laboratory tests, and a review of the patient's medical history. Some common ways to diagnose leprosy are:

  • Physical examination: A healthcare provider will examine the skin, nerves, and other affected body areas. They will look for signs of skin lesions, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and other symptoms characteristic of leprosy.
  • Skin biopsy: A small sample of skin is taken from a lesion and examined under a microscope to look for the presence of the bacteria that causes leprosy.
  • Nerve biopsy: A small sample of a nerve is taken and examined under a microscope to determine if there is nerve damage due to the disease.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to detect antibodies to the bacteria that cause leprosy, although this method is not always reliable for diagnosis.
  • Slit-skin smear test: A small amount of fluid is collected from the skin lesion and examined under a microscope to look for the presence of the bacteria that causes leprosy.

Diagnosing Leprosy can be complicated because the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions. Therefore, a Dermatologist may use the above methods to confirm the diagnosis. 

Treatment of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease) | When to Consult a Doctor

The treatment of leprosy involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria and prevent disease progression. Here are some well-known ways of treatment for leprosy:

  • Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT): MDT is the standard treatment for leprosy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). It involves a combination of antibiotics such as rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine. These antibiotics are given to the patient for 6-12 months depending on the type and severity of the disease. MDT is highly effective in curing leprosy and preventing its recurrence.
  • Steroids: In some cases, steroids are prescribed to control the inflammation and nerve damage caused by leprosy.
  • Surgery: In advanced cases of leprosy, surgery may be required to correct deformities or reconstruct damaged nerves.
  • Supportive care: Supportive care includes wound care, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to help patients manage their symptoms and regain function.

It is important to note that early diagnosis and treatment of leprosy are crucial in preventing the progression of the disease and minimizing the risk of complications. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have leprosy, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.