Leprosy is a disease that has provoked great fear through the ages in many societies, largely because of misunderstanding. This fear is still prevalent and stigma is an issue that leprosy-affected people face. For some it even means being rejected by their communities, or divorced from their spouse. Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about leprosy.
The Leprosy Mission's strength is our positive blend of compassion and action to rebuild lives and restore hope to individuals and communities disadvantaged by the impact of suffering from leprosy.
||What is Leprosy?
Leprosy is a disease that affects the skin and some nerves.
What causes leprosy?
It is caused by a germ. Leprosy is mostly found in areas with malnutrition, dirty water and surroundings.
What are the first signs of leprosy?
The first signs are patches on the skin which are lighter than the normal Skin color and have a loss of feeling. Sometimes the only sign may be numbness in a finger or toe.
How is leprosy spread?
It is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing of a person with untreated leprosy. Treated patients do not spread the disease. It is not spread from mother to child, it is not hereditary.
Is it easy to catch leprosy?
No, 95% of people have a natural immunity to leprosy.
Is leprosy curable?
Yes, it is completely curable and treatment is free of charge.
How long is the treatment of leprosy?
6 to 12 months. Patients can be treated from home, they do not need to be isolated.
Is there a vaccine for leprosy?
No, but the BCG (tuberculosis) vaccine gives some protection against leprosy. The best way of preventing the spread of the disease is to begin treatment as soon as possible.
What happens if leprosy goes untreated, do fingers and toes fall off when someone gets leprosy?
It will cause damage to the nerves of the hands, feet, eyes and parts of the face. This causes bent fingers, 'drop foot', and eye problems that can lead to blindness. Also, because of nerve damage, people with leprosy do not feel pain and injure their hands and feet easily. Repeated injury and infections cause bones to deform.
What can be done about deformities?
Surgery and physiotherapy can be used to improve function and appearance, patients are taught careful use of their hands and feet to prevent injury. Nerve damage cannot be restored.
Is Leprosy still a problem across the world?
Yes – Every year between two and three hundred thousand people are diagnosed with it and an estimated two to three million people around the world are disabled because of it. Leprosy is most common in places of poverty – dirty water, poor nutrition and low standards of living.
Is Leprosy still a problem in Nigeria?
Yes – Every year over 3500 people are diagnosed with leprosy and about 25% of patients having some degree of disability. Stigma and discrimination against persons and communities affected by leprosy in Nigeria is very high, due to myths and superstitions associated with fear of the disease.