How Does Leprosy Spread?

Leprosy is not spread easily from person to person. The bacteria get transmitted from an infected individual to a healthy individual when they remain in close contact for a prolonged time. However, it is highly contagious when the infected person is not getting the treatment and they have reached the advanced stage of the disease.

The disease gets spread through exposure to Mycobacterium leprae, which is the bacteria that causes leprosy or Hansen’s disease. These bacteria are released into the air through breathing, sneezing, or coughing. The infected individual releases tiny droplets of moisture that contain the bacteria. These moist droplets are released from the nose and mouth.

Being in close and frequent contact with the infected person causes the transmission of the bacteria because the healthy individual inhales the tiny droplets from the contaminated air.People who are not getting treatment for their condition are susceptible to health complications, and they may spread the disease more easily than those who are getting the treatment.

Causes of Leprosy

Mycobacterium leprae is a type of bacteria that leads to Hansen’s disease or leprosy. This is a slow-growing bacteria that takes a long time to fully infect the person. The bacteria cause gradual damage, which is why the person may not be even aware that they have caught the infection.

The bacteria generally take around three to five years to show the symptoms and give indications. In some cases, the symptoms might take a decade or two to finally indicate the disease that has been underlying. The growth and development of the bacteria can be effectively prevented with the help of antibiotic medications. Antibiotics help fight off bacteria and reverse the disease.

Risk of contagion

Most people are naturally capable of warding off the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, as the immune system rapidly kicks into action to effectively fight off the bacteria.But for people with low immunity, it becomes quite tough to suppress the growth of the bacteria, and therefore, they are more likely to develop this disease.

Leprosy is an airborne disease that spreads via physical proximity. The tiny droplets get released into the environment when the infected person simply exhales, coughs, or sneezes. The risk of contagion is very high when the condition has been left untreated and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

Can leprosy be cured?

Leprosy is a curable condition. Timely treatment will reduce the recovery time. The patient will be put on a combination of several medications, which will fight off the disease and restore their health. Generally, the healthcare provider prescribes a combination of drugs known as multi-drug therapy (MDT) to cure the condition. In general, the average recovery time is around one to two years. During the process of recovery, the healthcare provider will closely monitor the progress for a couple of years.

When is the right time to see the doctor?

If you develop skin sores or lesions that are painless, bumpy, patchy, and appear lighter tone than the rest of the skin, then you must see your healthcare provider immediately. These are the indications that hint towards the disease. It is necessary that the skin sores are a sign of leprosy, it could be due to other reasons.

To confirm that the skin lesions are a result of leprosy, the healthcare provider will suggest some diagnostic tests, which will reveal the true cause of the development of lesions. If the reports confirm the presence of Mycobacterium leprae, then treatment will begin based on the type of leprosy and its severity.

What are the types of leprosy?

There are three types of leprosy. It could be differentiated by the symptoms. The treatment depends upon the type of leprosy the person has. Three types of leprosy are given as follows:

  • Tuberculoid leprosy – In this type, the person experiences mild symptoms. They may develop some minor skin-related problems such as patches, lesions, and skin discoloration. The nerves under the skin might get damaged, as a result, the person may lose sensation and the area becomes numb.
  • Lepromatous leprosy – This type is a more severe form of leprosy. In addition to skin damage, it also causes severe muscle weakness and damage to the kidneys, nose, legs, and arms. It is more contagious compared to the tuberculoid type.
  • Borderline leprosy – In this type, the person develops the symptoms of both tuberculoid as well as lepromatous leprosy.

Diagnostic evaluation and treatment of leprosy

Your healthcare provider will conduct a skin biopsy by collecting a sample of your skin. They will order a diagnostic report. The sample will be sent to the lab for evaluation.The lab expert will examine the specimen under the microscope to check for the signs of Mycobacterium leprae. Through this, they will confirm the presence of bacteria and the form of leprosy.

The reports will be generated, which will be checked by the healthcare provider. They will begin the treatment process. They will prescribe multi-drug therapy (MDT) which involves a combination of multiple drugs, which will treat the condition.


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