Summary of Study Session 19

In Study Session 19 you learned that:

  1. Leprosy is a disabling disease and complications can occur before, during and after treatment.
  2. Patients are classified using WHO guidelines into paucibacillary (PB) and multibacillary (MB) for the purpose of treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT).
  3. Prompt treatment with MDT is an effective way to prevent the spread of leprosy in the community. The duration of treatment for PB and MB patients is 6 and 12 months respectively.
  4. If detected early and treated with MDT, leprosy will not lead to disabilities. Leprosy patients can lead completely normal lives.
  5. Patients can collect their treatment at regular intervals from you or from the health centre, or (with accompanied MDT) take the entire course away with them when diagnosed.
  6. As a health worker, you have an important role to play to ensure treatment adherence and completion and prevent patients from defaulting from treatment.
  7. Leprosy patients can develop reactions, as part of the natural course of the disease. Urgent treatment is essential, otherwise irreversible impairments (e.g. reduced or partial loss of nerve function in the hand, foot or eye, along with loss of sensation, weak grips, impaired vision), or deformities (total or partial loss of hand, foot or eye functions, clawed fingers and toes, partial or total blindness) will develop.
  8. Many complications of leprosy are due mainly to nerve damage and occur when reactions go untreated for a few months. The main result is damage of nerves which control the functions of the hands, feet or eyes.
  9. Disabilities can be prevented and managed by early diagnosis and prompt treatment, plus a range of simple protective measures requiring patient self-care of the hands, feet and eyes.

19.5.4  Measures to prevent and manage disabilities

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) for Study Session 19