What is Leprosy?
Leprosy could also be a sickness mainly caused by the Leprosy bacillus, which causes damage to the skin and thus the nervous system. The disease starts slowly (from six months to 40 years) and results in skin deformities and lesions, most often affects the cooler regions of the body (e.g., eyes, earlobes, nose, hands, feet, and testicles). The skin deformities and lesions are often disfiguring and are the rationale that historically, people referred to infected folks as outcasts in many cultures. Although basis transmission is that the first cause of infection, 3 other species can carry and (seldom) transfer M. leprae to humans: chimpanzees, monkeys, mangabey, and nine-banded armadillos. The sickness is termed a chronic granulomatous one, just like tuberculosis, because it shows inflamed nodules (granulomas) within the peripheral nerves and skin over time.
Symptoms of Leprosy
The symptoms of leprosy can appear differently in several people with the condition. The main signs include: the presence of skin lesions that are lighter than usual skin and remain for months patches of skin with reduced sensation, like pain, touch; and heat muscle weakness numbness in the hands, legs, feet, and arms, mentioned as “stocking or glove anesthesia”; eye problems; enlarged nerves, especially around the knees and elbows; stuffy and bleeding nose; curling of the thumb and fingers, caused by paralysis of small muscles around the hand ulcer on the feet soles.
Wound breaks and burns can go unnoticed because of the high numbing sensation from nerve damage, potentially seemly infected or severely injured. Over time, the extremities are lost to repeated damage. The wounds are also most likely to become infected, as immunity gets weakened by leprosy. The re-absorption of cartilage by the body typifies that these secondary infections may end in tissue loss. This leads to the shortening of the fingers and toes observed in leprosy. Damage to the mucosa that shields the internal parts of the nose can sometimes cause internal scarring and damage. The nose might eventually collapse. Leprosy can tear down the nerves responsible for blinking. This may cause one’s eyes to become dried out and exposed to infection, potentially resulting in blindness and ulceration.
How Does Leprosy Spread?
The bacterium Leprosy bacillus causes leprosy. It is thought that leprosy proliferates through contact with the mucosal fluids of an individual with the infection. This usually happens when the individual with leprosy cough or sneezes. The disease is not all that contagious. However, close, continuous contact with an untreated victim for an extended period can foster contracting leprosy. The bacterium responsible for leprosy spreads very slowly. The disease features a moderate inoculation period (the time between infection and appearance of the first symptoms) of 5 years, according to the WHO. Symptoms may not appear for as long as 20 years. An armadillo native to the southern us and Mexico, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, can also carry the disease and transmit it to humans.
What Causes Leprosy?
Leprosy is caused basically by Leprosy bacillus, a rod-shaped slow-developing bacillus that’s an obligate intracellular bacterium (only develop inside the specific animal and human cells). M. leprae is termed an “acid-fast” bacterium due to its chemical features. When medical professionals use some selected stains for microscopic analysis, it splashes red on a blue background because of its mycolic acid content present in its cell walls. The Ziehl-Neelsen stain is a good example of the selected staining techniques used to observe the acid-fast organisms under the microscope.
Recently, the organisms cannot be cultured on any artificial media. The bacteria take a long while to grow inside cells (about 2 weeks as compared to minutes to hours for some other bacteria). The bacteria grow best at temperatures around 80.9 F-86 F, so cooler areas of the human or animal body tend to encourage the development of the infection. The bacteria grow perfectly within the body’s macrophages (a typical system cell) and Schwann cells (cells that protect nerve axons). M. leprae is genetically linked with M. tuberculosis (the kind of bacteria causing tuberculosis) and some other mycobacteria that infect humans.
In 2009, researchers discovered a substitute Mycobacterium species, M. lepromatosis, which causes diffuse disease (Lepromatous leprosy). Regarded as one of the tropical diseases, the new species (determined from genetic analysis) appeared in victims located in the Caribbean islands and Mexico. The stigma of leprosy could also be a misunderstood disease that has caused poverty, homelessness, and isolation over time.
Leprosy isn’t specifically contagious, and once proper treatment has been underway for a month, the individual is not anymore contagious within the least. Despite this clear fact, so-called “leper colonies” still function in India, China, and some African countries. There are no medical grounds for leprosy patients to be away from society. In these countries, a lot of social stigma around leprosy makes life with the condition isolated and unbearable.
Though organizations such as WHO are working tirelessly to lower and eventually eradicate leprosy, the issue of stigma for victims of leprosy is proving harder to avert. Individuals living with the scars of leprosy can earn significantly low money, chances of marriage are often significantly lowered, mothers with the disease may stop suckling their babies, and affected infants are often shunned from their homes and villages eternally. The anxiety and emotional stress of leprosy can even cause psychological state problems, leading to additional isolation and sometimes the termination of treatment. Unemployment is rather common, and begging is often the only option left, adding to the stress, marginalization, and feelings of rejection and worthlessness. Because of the phobia of this stigma, people that have contracted leprosy often hide their symptoms and do not look for any help or treatment. This allows the condition to worsen and boost the danger of complications. It also raises the possibilities of transmission to others around the community.
How is Leprosy Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct some physical examination to look for telltale signs and symptoms of this disease. They will also perform a biopsy in which a little piece of skin or nerve will be removed and then taken to a laboratory for proper testing. Your doctor also should perform a lepromin diagnostic test to find out the form of leprosy. A small amount of leprosy-causing bacterium which has been inactivated will be injected into the skin, basically on the upper forearm. Folks who have borderline leprosy or tuberculoid will get a positive result at the injection sites.
The ideal approach to prevent the spread of leprosy is the first diagnosis and treatment of the condition in folks to whom the disease has been transmitted. However, due to poor medical infrastructure and, of course, the stigmas attached to leprosy, education, and some other provisions in various communities around the globe are not enough to completely get rid of leprosy. The following steps are often taken to spur the prevention of leprosy: providing education and health-care support monitoring the condition and its signs on an on-going basis, and referring chronic cases, managing daily injuries and disabilities that develop, educate locals about injury prevention and wound cleaning.
How is Leprosy Treated?
WHO developed a multidrug therapy to fight all types of leprosy. It is available freely worldwide. Additionally, many antibiotics treat leprosy by killing the causative bacteria.
Such antibiotics include dapsone (Aczone), clofazimine (Lamprene), rifampin (Rifadin), minocycline (Minocin), and ofloxacin (Ocuflux). Your doctor may likely prescribe just one antibiotic at the same time.
They may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication like prednisone (Rayos), aspirin (Bayer), or thalidomide (Thalomid). The treatment may last for up to 1 to 2 years. You must never take thalidomide if you are or may be pregnant. It may spur severe birth defects. Leprosy could also be a gradually developing, progressive disease that affects the nervous system and skin.
Facts About Leprosy
- Any infection with either Leprosy bacillus or lepromatosis bacteria can cause leprosy.
- Early symptoms commence in cooler areas of the body and may include loss of sensation.
- Signs of leprosy are often painless ulcers, skin injury of hypopigmented macules (pale and flat areas of skin), and eye injury (reduced blinking and dryness). Later, huge ulcerations, skin nodules, loss of digits, and facial deformity may develop.
- The infection moves from person to person through nasal droplets and secretions.
- Leprosy rarely spreads from mangabey monkeys, chimpanzees, and nine-banded armadillos to humans by direct contact or droplets.
- Susceptibility to getting this disease (leprosy) could even be because of certain human genes.