World Leprosy Day

World Leprosy Day
28 Jan 2024
8 mins
Table Of Content
World Leprosy Day

    "The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted."-Mother Teresa.


    Do you ever feel unwanted or untouchable by someone? Or Have people ever treated you as unclean? Yes, The pain is real. Almost every leprosy victim has gone through this situation. Today, we are going to break the stigma associated with both untouchability and leprosy by spreading awareness through this blog. Let's explore.


    World Leprosy Day History And Its Significance


    World Leprosy Day (WLD) is commemorated every year on the last Sunday of January and was originally established in 1954 by the French journalist Raoul Follereau to raise awareness about leprosy and promote efforts for its eradication. It is an opportunity to highlight the importance of awareness about leprosy and addressing the discrimination faced by the leprosy victims. 

    This year, World Leprosy Day is celebrated with the theme "Beat Leprosy," which has a dual objective: eradicate the stigma of leprosy and promote the dignity of leprosy patients.


    Understanding Leprosy: Insights Into The Disease And Its Consequences


    Leprosy otherwise called as Hansen's disease, is a chronic bacterial infection of mycobacterium leprae that affects the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. If left untreated, it can result in the crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness in the affected individual.


    According to the World Health Organisation, it is reported that more than 200,000 people are affected by leprosy, which is highest in India, Brazil, and Indonesia in 2019, and about 2 to 3 million people are living with Hansen-related disabilities all over the world. This shows the prevalence and the impact of the disease around the world.


    Types Of Leprosy 


    Ridley and Jopling classified leprosy into five types based on the histological and immunological features. These five types of leprosy are given below:


    1. Tuberculoid (TT)
    2. Borderline tuberculoid (BT)
    3. Mid borderline (BB)
    4. Borderline lepromatous (BL)
    5. Lepromatous leprosy (LL)


    Manifestations Of Leprosy: Exploring The Disease's Symptoms


    Leprosy can be detected at an early stage by the symptoms that are shown in patients. Some of the symptoms of leprosy are given below:


    Skin symptoms

    • Formation of flat, faded patches and discoloration (lighter than the normal skin color) on the skin.
    • Growth of nodules, which look like large lumps or bumps on the skin.
    • Skin becomes dry, thick, and stiff.
    • Painless ulcers on the soles of feet.
    • Painless swelling on the face or earlobes.
    • Loss of hair in the eyebrows or eyelashes.


    Nerves symptoms

    • Feeling numbness in the affected areas of the skin.
    • Paralysis in the hand and feet.
    • Enlargement of the nerves in the neck, knee, and elbow.
    • Eye problems which may lead to visual disability (blindness).


    Respiratory symptoms

    • Stiffness and bleeding in the nose.


    Cannot Get Leprosy!


    • If you have casual contact with the affected person.
    • If you have a handshaking or hugging.
    • If you are sitting or having a meal next to the affected person.
    • If you are an affected mother, it does not affect the unborn baby.


    Can Get Leprosy!


    • If you're exposed to droplets that contain bacteria (coughs or sneezes,.
    • Prolonged or close contact with the person who had leprosy for a long period.
    • If you have a weak immune system against the bacteria.


    Diagnosis Of Leprosy


    Leprosy can be detected by the following processes, which are given below:


    • Skin Lesions Examination: Your doctor will initially examine the skin lesions, assessing for the presence of red or dark skin patches, as well as checking for signs such as loss of sensation and hair in the affected area
    • Nerve Examination: Individuals with a loss of sensation are subjected to a monofilament test (MFT) and voluntary muscle test (VMT) to detect the nerve function in the body.
    • Mucous Membrane Inspection: Leprosy patients are clinically examined for oral mucosa to detect the presence of bacteria in them.
    • Eye Examination: Individuals are assessed for visual examination to detect the change or damage that is caused by the disease.
    • Acid-Fast Bacilli Test: Acid-fast bacilli test detects mycobacterium leprae in the smear of the patient's sample (earlobes, elbows, and knees).
    • Biopsy: Skin or nerve biopsies are collected to examine the affected tissue under the microscope. It will help to confirm the presence of bacteria and determine the type of leprosy.


    The Road To Recovery: Leprosy Treatment Options


    Leprosy can be treated effectively by a multidrug approach; a combination of 2 or 3 antibiotics at the same time is given to kill or stop the growth of the bacteria. Currently, dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine combinations are recommended to treat leprosy effectively. Early treatments can help to reduce the disability, which is related to the effect of leprosy. 


    Dispelling Myths: Unraveling Misconceptions


    Myth: Leprosy is contagious (easy to spread)

    Fact: Leprosy (Hansen's disease) is not an easy-to-spread disease because 95% of individuals have immunity against the bacteria. Also, it cannot be spread through normal physical contact like hand shaking or hugging. Individuals who have prolonged exposure to the untreated patient (long period) can likely get the disease. 


    Myth: Leprosy can be spread through physical contact, like shaking hands or hugging.

    Fact: Leprosy is not a disease that can be spread through normal physical contact like shaking hands or hugging. Individuals who have prolonged exposure to the patient who are untreated for a long period can likely get the disease. 


    Myth: Leprosy can always lead to disability in patients.

    Fact: Leprosy does not often lead to disability; it can cause disability only when the person is left untreated. Leprosy-related disability can be prevented through early diagnosis and a multidrug approach to treatment.


    Wrap It up


    Leprosy can be managed with ease if we detect it earlier without further delay. Always remember that it can cause disability in the patient who is not treated properly. The multidrug approach is a ray of hope for the leprosy victims facing struggles in their health and society. It is our duty to make the leprosy patient comfortable by breaking the barriers of myth through the power of truth. On this world leprosy day, let's unite together and raise against leprosy, not against the victims.


    Kindness is the cure for the stigma attached to leprosy.

    Written by
    Ishwarya RMedical content writer
    AboutIshwary R is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her PG from the University of Madras, Chennai. She did her final year project in CSIR-CLRI, Adyar, entitled Studies on production of Biosurfactant by bacillus subtilis using Leather industry bioproduct. She did her offline internship and learned clinical Laboratory skills in Billroth hospital and her online internship in SS Healthcare. She strengthened her skills in research, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content, blogs, and scientific articles.
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