Summary of Study Session 18

  1. Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease affecting mainly the skin and peripheral nerves. Its incubation period is between six months and 20 years.
  2. Leprosy does not kill, but it can disfigure the sufferers. When discovered early and treated promptly it is fully curable and no disabilities will arise.
  3. Cardinal symptoms and signs of leprosy are skin lesions, with a lack of sensation, and leprosy bacteria seen in positive skin smears. Thickened nerves are commonly associated with the disease, but they are not always present. Additional signs and symptoms include weakness of eyelids, hands or feet and painful and/or tender nerves.
  4. Leprosy bacteria are expelled into the air when untreated leprosy patients cough or sneeze and can be inhaled by a susceptible person.
  5. Diagnosis of leprosy is most usually based on the clinical features. Most often affected areas are the skin, peripheral nerves and the eyes. Palpation of nerves and the testing of a range of voluntary muscles, for example those associated with the hands and feet, are key methods of detecting nerve damage to aid diagnosis. So is testing for reduced skin and corneal sensitivity.

18.6.4  ‘Foot up’ test of peroneal nerve function

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) for Study Session 18