Leprosy is, also called Hansen’s disease, caused by mycobacterium leprae. This organism was discovered by Gerhard Armauer Hansen in Norway in 1873, making it the first bacteria to be identified as causing disease in man. Leprosy is an infectious chronic granulomatous disease principally affecting the skin and peripheral nervous system.
It can be treated effectively with several drugs, but if left untreated, the disease can result in severe disfigurement, especially of the feet, hands, and face. It is rarely fatal. Contrary to popular belief, leprosy does not simply cause body parts to fall off.
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is a chronic infectious disease of the nervous system mainly affecting the peripheral nerves (in the hands, feet, mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes) and skin, caused by mycobacterium leprae, characterized by loss of sensation (anaesthesia), shortening of fingers and toes, and skin lesions. It can occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age.
Most bacteria that cause disease in humans thrive in a warm environment, that is, in the interior of the human body. Still, the leprosy bacterium prefers to live in more relaxed surroundings. For this reason, leprosy primarily affects cooler surface areas of the body, such as skin, nerves near the skin, and nose and mouth surface membranes.
The port of entry has yet to be discovered. However, the two portals of entry seriously considered are the skin and upper respiratory tract. The incubation period ranges from a minimum period as short as a few weeks and a maximum of as long up to 30 years. Nevertheless, the average period is 3-5 years.
There is some confusion over the classification of leprosy because the World Health Organization (WHO) replaced an older, more complicated classification system with a more straightforward approach that identifies two categories of leprosy:
1. Paucibacillary leprosy
2. Multibacillary leprosy
The ordering system included six categories:
* Indeterminate leprosy
* Lepromatous leprosy
* Tuberculoid leprosy
* Borderline leprosy
* Borderline tuberculoid leprosy
* Borderline lepromatous leprosy
Paucibacillary leprosy patients can be cured by treating the patient with two drugs (Rifampicin and dapsone) for six months. Multibacillary leprosy patients can be fixed by treating the patient with three drugs (Rifampicin, dapson and Clofazimine) for 12 months.