Leprosy has been widely misunderstood. It is greatly feared not just in Nigeria but all over the world. People suffering from the disease suffer a great deal of stigmatization and have been known to be kept in secluded places called ‘colonies. In fact historical records in Europe during the Middle Ages, revealed that sufferers of Leprosy had to wear special clothing and ring bells to warn others that they were close, and even walk on a particular side of the road, depending on the direction of the wind. All these things shows misconceptions about the disease. It is high time these misconceptions are corrected and wrong notions about the disease erased. INFORMATION NIGERIA in this piece presents 12 crucial facts about the disease that would correct all the wrong notions….
– Leprosy also known as Hansen’s Disease is caused by a type of bacteria otherwise known as mycobacterium leprae and is known to multiply very slowly.
– Its incubation period is said to be between 5 years while symptoms can take 20 years to appear and it mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves.
– Contrary to the social stigma, it is not highly contagious, and does not cause body parts to fall off.
– 95% of the world’s population is naturally immune to the disease and once diagnosed, a person is easily cured.
– It is not highly infectious and transmission from human to human is through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
– Leprosy, if left untreated is capable of causing damage to the nerves, limbs, skin and eyes as seen in most patients.
– The deformities in the fingers and toes occurs due to cartilage being absorbed back into the body and they are not leprosy but the aftermath of late diagnosis and treatment and this can happen in the case of other diseases.
– This damage gives the patient decreased feeling in the areas affected. The decreased feeling can leave the patient unaware that they have injured themselves and they can get secondary infections. These infections result in the loss of body tissues.
– The hallmark signs of leprosy are hypesthesia, which is an abnormally weak sense of pain, cold, heat, or touch, skin lesions, and peripheral neuropathy.
– The first visible indication that someone has leprosy usually has to do with the skin. Things like painless skin patches (buttocks, face, and the surfaces of limbs areas) that are not itchy begin popping up. They tend to be circular with a dry scaly centre.
– As the disease progresses, the skin’s features like sweat glands and hair follicles are destroyed. Further, the nerves become enlarged and can become quite painful. The patient loses their ability to “feel” and they can injure themselves easily.
– These injuries lead to muscle atrophy, weakness, and infections. This can cause “foot drop” or clawed hands. Ulcers can also form on the hands and feet.
– Leprosy is curable; however, the deformities and nerve damage associated with leprosy are often irreversible. Preventions or rehabilition of these defects is an integral part of management of the disease.
If you didn’t know, well now you do!!!