What You May Not Know About Leprosy Symptoms
Something that people do not hear much about these days is leprosy and leprosy symptoms. Leprosy has been around since Biblical times when lepers were shunned from others and isolated. A cause was never discovered until the late 1800's by Dr. Hansen. This is why today, leprosy is also called Hansen's disease. Leprosy is a disease that is brought on by the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, and it is thought that it is very contagious when in fact, almost all people have built up a natural immunity. That particular bacteria is related to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. This family of bacteria works on destroying the nerves, the skin, and surrounding mucous membranes.
Transmission of Leprosy
It is thought that leprosy is spread through coughing and sneezing where bacteria are released and someone else inhales them. Some scientists also believe that other contributing factors that raise a person's odds of catching leprosy, including genetics and environmental conditions. Once a person catches this disease it takes time for the bacteria to start to multiply and the leprosy symptoms will not surface for as many as five years. This is because there is a leprosy incubation period. The truth is that there is a lot about leprosy that is not understood.
Types of Leprosy
Leprosy symptoms can vary a great deal depending on the type that they have caught as there are two kinds, paucibacillary leprosy and lepromatous leprosy. Paucibacillary leprosy has milder symptoms than the latter and may begin with no more than a red rash on the trunk and other parts of the body. The leprosy symptoms advance and can include intense and severe pain, weakness in the hands and feet, very dry skin and possible stiffness, possible blindness, and enlarged nerves around the knees and elbows. Some people lose their fingers and toes but this is not because of the leprosy itself but rather the fact that people hurt themselves and are unable to feel the pain due to the nerve damage. Other leprosy symptoms include lesions on the skin that are not sensitive to touch, pain, or that do not heal. There may also be numbness in the extremities. Hypopigmentation occurs quite frequently with leprosy where the skin loses pigmentation and becomes pale in patches. Many describe it as a whitening of the skin.
A doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam and will have to ask many questions. The doctor will need to know your leprosy symptoms and about your current medical condition. He will also want to know if you have recently done any traveling and what medications that you are taking and have been taking. Have information available about medical conditions related to your family and the history of those and if you have been in contact with anyone that has been diagnosed with leprosy. The doctor will then proceed with a physical examination and set a battery of tests up, including a skin biopsy. This is necessary since there are numerous diseases and conditions that share symptoms with leprosy.
Getting leprosy in today's age is no longer fatal as it has been known to be throughout history. Today, leprosy symptoms can be alleviated and leprosy can be cured with antibiotics. As a matter of fact, if the disease is caught early enough there is no need for the patient to suffer at all. The treatment for leprosy continues for up to two years, depending on which type you get. Supportive care is also available to reduce leprosy symptoms and to eliminate any complications that could develop.