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FAQs - Leprosy

What is leprosy?
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It affects the skin and nerves (which carry sensation from the skin and also causes movement of muscles).

What are the signs of leprosy?
The early signs of leprosy include pale or red patches in the skin, one or more, and numbness in the hands and/ or feet. If untreated the person with the disease may develop deformity in the hands, feet or eyes due to damage to nerves.

Is leprosy curable?
Yes, it is curable at any stage. Deformity if present at the time of diagnosis can be corrected with surgery.

Where can one get the treatment?
Treatment for leprosy is available free of cost at all Government health centers and hospitals.

What is the treatment for leprosy?
There are two types of leprosy, milder form and severe form. Milder form, called Paucibacillary leprosy, is treated with two drugs for 6 months. Severe form called Multibacillary leprosy is treated with three drugs for 12 months. Since more than one drug is used in the treatment, it is called Multi Drug Therapy (MDT).

Is it hereditary?
No. It is not hereditary.

Is it contagious?
No. It is not contagious.

Who gets the disease?
Anybody can get the disease. Majority of people in countries like India have the causative bacteria in the body. Only few get the disease.

Is leprosy a serious public health problem in India?
Every year the country reports 120000 new cases of leprosy. This constitutes almost 50% of the total cases reported globally. Leprosy would be a simple disease but for the deformity it produces in a small percentage ( less than 2%) of persons with the disease. It is estimated that in India there may be about 200000 persons living with leprosy-related deformity. They may have deformity of hands (bent fingers, loss of fingers), feet (wounds in the soles of feet because of numbness, loss of toes because of repeated injuries), and/ or eyes (inability to close the eyes, blindness).Very little is being done for them because of the difficulty in reaching these persons.

What are the recommended standard treatment regimens for Leprosy?
Please ask him or her to go to the nearest Government health centre.

Is deformity a common feature of leprosy?
It is not a common feature of leprosy, only a few patients develop deformities due to disease related complications. In India every year two to three percent of new leprosy patients with deformities are registered.

Why is Leprosy still considered a "curse"?
It is not possible to correct all the deformities but majority can be corrected through surgery.