Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a chronic bacterial skin infection. Leprosy has afflicted mankind from antiquity and is well-recognized in the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, and India; with the introduction of antibiotics against leprosy in the twentieth century, leprosy is now a curable disease.
Historically, there was no cure for leprosy(also known as Hansen's disease), and lepers were segregated for extended periods of time. Today, however, the disease can generally be cured with antibiotics. With early diagnosis and treatment, many leprosy symptoms and complications can be minimized or avoided all together.
It is important to note that leprosy treatment differs depending upon the form of the disease. It will generally continue for one year for tuberculoid leprosy and for two years for lepromatous leprosy. Treatment typically involves medicines along with supportive care. Supportive care is aimed at treating symptoms and associated complications.
Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, there was nothing that could cure leprosy. Lepers were segregated for extended periods of time and developed severe disabilities and disfigurements. Today, medicines are used to cure leprosy. Therefore, the challenge now is to identify people with leprosy early so thattreatment for leprosy can begin. Early treatment can reduce the chances of any long-term disabilities that develop prior to successful treatment.
Treatment of leprosy uses antibiotics to kill. These antibiotics are:
Other antibiotics, such as clarithromycin, ofloxacin, levofloxacin, andminocycline, also have excellent antibacterial activity against . Many times, medicine for treatment of leprosy can be provided at no cost to patients by their family doctor or through the Hansen's Disease Clinic closest to them. A person should see improvements after two to three months of beginning treatment.
Supportive care does not affect the progression of leprosy, but it can help reduce symptoms and minimize complications. It is important to note that many of the deformities and disabilities associated with leprosy are preventable.
Supportive care for leprosy typically includes consultation and treatment from:
Orthopedic surgeons (bone doctors)
After successful treatment, people with the disease are considered free of active infection. A number of leprosy symptoms can improve with treatment, such as leprosy skin lesions. Other symptoms or complications, such as nerve damage, may improve very little with treatment. Worldwide, there are an estimated 2 to 3 million cases of people who have completed leprosy treatment but still have residual disabilities.
Tips and comments:In order to prevent leprosy, people who live in the same household (household contacts) as a person with leprosy will need to be examined by a physician. These examinations should be done annually for five years. It is important to note that the degree of natural immunity is high and there is generally no need for preventative medicine. However, if you are a household contact and you develop a questionable skin rash, you should have a skin biopsy to determine whether or not leprosy is present.
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