There are many different kinds of skin problems that we can encounter these days. However, none of these can be as serious or as critical as what leprosy can do to the body. But what is leprosy? Leprosy is defined as a type of disease that is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. This organism is capable of causing damage to the skin as well as the peripheral nervous system. This disease is unlike any other types of diseases since it can develop very slowly and can last a duration of 6 months to even 40 years. Because this condition primarily targets the skin, it can produce different kinds of skin lesions and deformities. These, most of the time, affect the cooler areas or regions of the body just like in the eyes, earlobes, nose, feet, hands and even the testicles. These lesions are unlike any other lesions caused by other bacteria since they are very disfiguring, which is why people suffering from leprosy are considered outcasts in many cultures and communities. So in order for us to become aware of the different facts about leprosy; let us read the following article and find out more information about this kind of infection as well as the common leprosy symptoms.
What is Leprosy?
Since leprosy is considered a type of infection, the bacterium causing it can be transferred through human to human transmissions. However, there are also other species that can transfer M. leprae to humans such as the chimpanzees, the mangabey monkeys and the nine-banded armadillos. However, these cases are considered to be rare. Just like tuberculosis, leprosy is also considered a granulomatous disease since it can produce inflammatory nodules or granulomas located in the skin and the nerves over a period of time.
The M. leprae bacterium is a rod shaped bacillus that is an obligate intracellular type of bacteria. This means that they only grow inside certain types of human and animal cells. M. leprae is also considered an acid fast bacillus because of its chemical characteristics. Currently, the organism cannot be cultures on an artificial media. This type of bacterium takes an extremely long time or duration in order for it to reproduce inside the cells. This however, grows faster in cooler temperatures thus affecting the cooler areas of the body.
The Different Signs and Symptoms of Leprosy
Discovering the early signs of leprosy is considered to be very difficult since these symptoms are very subtle and can occur at a very slow pace. The symptoms; however are actually similar to those that may occur with syphilis, tetanus and leptospirosis. Some of the initial and noticeable symptoms include the presence of numbness and the loss of temperature sensation. As the disease progresses, the touch sensation will also become affected causing the loss of pain sensation and eventually the decrease or even the total absence of the deep pressure sensation.
Other common symptoms that can occur in leprosy are the appearance of painless ulcers and skin lesions of the hypopigmented macules. These macules are described as flat and pale areas of the skin. Eye damage, such as reduced blinking and dryness, can also occur before large ulcerations, loss of digits and the disfigurement of the face can start to develop. Below are some of the other common symptoms of leprosy in the body.
• Skin symptoms
• Peripheral nerve symptoms
o Symptoms of Paucibacillary Hansen’s disease
o Hypopigmentation of skin macules
o Appearance of pale skin rashes
o Presence of local skin numbness
o Symptoms of multibacillary Hansen’s disease
o Presence of symmetric skin lesions
o Formation of nodules
o Nasal congestion
o Nasal mucosa lesions
o Thickening of the dermis
o Presence of pins and needles sensation
o Anesthesia or loss of pain sensation
o Positive nerve lesions
o Occurrence of muscular atrophy
o Skin plaques
o Skin lesions
oRed skin plaques
o Appearance of discolored skin spots
o Pale skin patches
o Formation of skin bumps
o Development of skin nodules
o Appearance of hairless skin plaques
o Loss of eyelashes
o Enlarged earlobes
o Facial deformities
o Hand deformities (loss of digits)
o Foot deformities (loss of digits)
o Mycobacterial destruction of the nasal septum
o Mycobacterial destruction of the cartilage
o Mycobacterial destruction of the facial tissue
o Loss of eyelashes
o Loss of eyebrows
o Eye keratitis
o Corneal anesthesia
These are some of the specific symptoms that can occur from this disease called leprosy. Having leprosy is not an easy thing to go through, which is why we should all be sensitive to the feelings of those who are suffering from this awful condition. Most people with leprosy suffer severe self esteem issues not just because of their disfigured faces but also because of the taunts, critics and as well as the insults they usually receive from different people. The gradual loss of one’s physical figure to leprosy may not be literally painful, but the emotional burden a person can carry from this type of disease can be very heavy.