Leprosy is a mysterious health problem that has affected humanity throughout history and has been the subject of terrifying legends. This disease, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, has serious consequences by affecting the skin and nervous system. Although leprosy, which has led to exclusion and discrimination in societies for centuries, is actually a treatable disease thanks to the great achievements of modern medicine, there are still common misconceptions about it.
In this article, we will explore the true face of this mysterious disease by covering topics such as the causes, symptoms and treatment methods of leprosy. Despite the adventure from history to the present, it is of great importance to raise awareness in society and contribute to a correct understanding of the disease, to break down prejudices and to support the common struggle of humanity, thanks to real information about leprosy.
What is Leprosy?
Leprosy, or leprosy as it is more commonly known, is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. This condition causes rashes, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose, nerve damage, and disability. The symptoms of this chronic disease can last for years. The infectious disease is more common in overpopulated and underserved countries.
It was first discovered by Armauer Hansen, a Norwegian scientist. After this discovery in 1876, the disease is also called Hansen’s disease.
This disease, which has a very ancient history and is even mentioned in ancient Egyptian sources, has always frightened people. It is known that patients were excluded and cursed by society in ancient times.
What causes leprosy, how is it transmitted?
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, also referred to as “Leprosy” in the medical literature. Leprosy, which has afflicted mankind for centuries, causes serious health problems, especially by affecting the skin and nervous system. The fear and exclusion that this disease has caused throughout history has had serious consequences for social life. However, thanks to modern medicine, leprosy is now known to be a treatable disease.
What Causes Leprosy?
The exact cause of leprosy is still not fully understood, but the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is the main culprit of leprosy. This bacteria usually multiplies on the nasal mucosa, upper respiratory tract and skin. Another theory about the cause of leprosy is related to the immune system response. Some people’s immune systems develop a stronger defense against Mycobacterium leprae, while others may show a weak response.
How is leprosy transmitted?
How leprosy is transmitted was not fully understood for a long time and is still being researched. However, certain risk factors and common routes of transmission are known for the transmission of leprosy:
- Close contact: Leprosy can be transmitted through close and prolonged contact with an infected person. The risk of transmission is increased by breathing in airborne droplets of bacteria when infected people cough or sneeze, or through skin contact.
- Genetic predisposition: Some people may have a higher genetic predisposition to leprosy. People with a family history of leprosy may be at greater risk than others.
- Weak immune system: Those with weak immune systems may be at greater risk of contracting leprosy. Diseases that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, or drugs that suppress the immune system can increase the risk of leprosy.
The transmission process of leprosy is still being researched and modern medicine has made it possible to control and treat the disease. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are extremely important to prevent the progression of the disease and prevent its spread. In the fight against leprosy, in addition to raising awareness and education, correcting the wrong beliefs in society is of great importance.
What are the types of leprosy (leprosy)?
There are 3 different types of leprosy, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Types of leprosy are leprematous, tuberculoid, borderline, and indeterminate.
Lepromatous Type Leprosy
Leprematus is the most feared and worst form of leprosy. Asymmetrically distributed copper-red spots form on the skin. Hard, light brown spots appear on the face, neck, nipple, and genitals.
The disease leads to nerve loss in the later stages. As a result, problems from the nervous system, weakness and deformities in the limbs can be seen. In addition to increasing lesions on the skin, hair loss can also be seen. Blindness occurs in many cases.
Leprosy of the tuberculoid type
This type of leprosy, which generally targets peripheral nerves, causes weakness and weakness in the area affected by the nerve. If the nerves in the hand muscles become paralyzed due to the nerve damage, an appearance called “clawed hand” occurs. Lesions in this leprosy type are larger and flatter.
Borderline Type Leprosy
Many lepers are borderline leprosy. Severe nerve damage is seen in this type of leprosy and injuries can occur. As with lepromatous and tuberculoid leprosy, the symptoms of borderline leprosy then change and become the same as with other forms of the disease.
What are the symptoms of leprosy?
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. The symptoms of leprosy can vary depending on the damage the bacteria has done to the body. The incubation period of the disease can be quite long and symptoms usually develop slowly. The main symptoms of leprosy are:
Lesions and skin changes
One of the most obvious signs of leprosy is lesions and skin changes on the skin. These lesions can range from mild to severe and usually appear on exposed areas of the body (face, arms, legs) and the inner thigh. The lesions usually have an irregular shape and show color changes and psoriasis-like symptoms. In addition, symptoms called “asymmetric nerve compressions” specific to leprosy may also be seen.
Since leprosy is a disease that affects the nervous system, neurological symptoms are common. Patients may experience symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands and feet. Also, in the later stages of leprosy, a serious condition called “mutilation” can occur in which the fingers or feet become numb, resulting in tissue loss.
Eye and facial symptoms
Leprosy can also affect the eyes and face. In the later stages of the disease, damage to the nasal mucosa can occur, changes in the shape of the nose can occur and this is called “sunken nose”. There may be changes in the eyes and patients may experience symptoms such as drooping eyebrows or drooping eyelids.
Internal organ symptoms
In rare cases, leprosy can also affect internal organs. Damage can occur to internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, and lungs, which can lead to various health problems.
How is leprosy treated?
Leprosy is an infectious disease that can be controlled with medical treatment. Thanks to modern medicine, the treatment of leprosy has become quite effective. The treatment of leprosy is carried out through early diagnosis of the disease and treatment with appropriate drugs. Here’s what you need to know about the leprosy treatment process:
Multidrug Therapy (MDT)
The most common approach to treating leprosy is multidrug therapy, also known as multidrug therapy. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended MDT protocol provides effective control of leprosy bacteria by using more than one drug together. The duration of treatment can vary depending on the type and stage of leprosy and can often last for months or even years.
It is important that leprosy patients are regularly monitored by healthcare professionals during the treatment process. Regular examinations and laboratory tests during treatment help control the disease and monitor response to treatment.
In the later stages of leprosy, surgical intervention may be necessary in cases where tissue loss and damage are evident. Such procedures can be done specifically to correct damage to the hands and feet or to resolve nerve compressions.
Supportive treatments can also be used in leprosy patients to relieve the symptoms of the disease and support the healing process. This could include pain relief, skin care, physiotherapy and psychosocial support.
Does leprosy still exist?
Leprosy is still a common disease, but it has become very rare. Although the incidence of leprosy has decreased, it still occurs in underdeveloped countries. The disease persists in overpopulated countries that lack hygiene standards. As contact increases and hygiene decreases, the disease spreads from person to person.
Are plague and leprosy the same thing?
Plague and leprosy are not the same thing. While leprosy progresses slowly by showing symptoms years later, plague can appear within one to two days. The two diseases have different symptoms and severity of the disease. On the other hand, antibiotics and various drugs have been developed for leprosy.
Does leprosy occur in Turkey?
Leprosy still exists in Turkey. According to some studies, leprosy is seen in 1 person in 10 thousand in Turkey. Immediate measures are taken against this notifiable disease and the patient is isolated and treated as much as possible.
Does leprosy feel no pain?
With leprosy, bumps and spots on the skin begin to numb. For this reason, the patient does not feel pain when these spots are touched. This is because leprosy thickens the nerves and causes nerve damage. If left untreated, the disease can progress to paralysis. This situation entails complete numbness.
Is leprosy contagious?
Leprosy is a disease caused by a bacteria that is contagious. The patient’s secretions and touched areas can infect another person. Living in unsanitary areas, using common areas and belongings, being in constant contact with a sick person increases the contagiousness of leprosy. Even if a person is infected with leprosy, the symptoms do not appear immediately.
Is there a leprosy vaccine?
Some drugs and antibiotics have been developed for leprosy, but there is no specific vaccine for leprosy. Instead, the tuberculosis vaccine can be used. It has been established that this vaccine is also effective against leprosy and provides protection. These vaccines can be used in areas where there is a leprosy epidemic.