If diagnosed early and treated with MDT, leprosy will not lead to disabilities.
Millions of people around the world are still disabled by leprosy, which if left untreated causes nerve damage and disfigurement to the face, hands and limbs. Lack of sensation can lead to injury and blindness.
Many new cases of leprosy are undiagnosed, especially among women and children. Delays in detection are leading to avoidable disability.
For a small number of people affected by leprosy, nerve damage may start quite early. In others, it may occur later in the disease pathway, especially if left untreated. Leprosy commonly leads to the weakening of various muscles and loss of sensation in the hands and feet so that the person affected no longer feels hot or cold or even pain. The loss of sensation can then lead to unintentional damage, ulceration, infection and eventual destruction of fingers and toes, disfigurement and disability in untreated leprosy. The muscles around the eyes may also be affected and blindness is another serious and tragic consequence of the untreated disease.
Therefore, intervention to prevent disability in people who already have some nerve damage due to leprosy concentrates particularly on the eyes, hands and feet. Fortunately, some of the complications of leprosy such as nerve involvement and eye damage, can be successfully treated so that the damage may be reversed completely or, if that is not possible, further deterioration can be prevented.
The more severe the damage, the more complex and lengthy treatment will be required and residual disability is more likely to occur.
Download ILEP’s publication How to Prevent Disability in Leprosy