Symptoms and Signs of Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Leprosy (Hansen's Disease)

Leprosy, also called Hansen's disease, is a chronic infectious disease that causes severe disfiguring sores on the skin, nerve damage in the peripheral nerves of the arms and legs, and damage to the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy can permanently damage these structures, resulting in disfigurement and disability. Leprosy is a curable disease and in the year 2000, global elimination of leprosy was achieved.

Symptoms of leprosy vary depending on the individual's immune response and the number of skin lesions and nerve involvement and may include flat or raised skin lesions or nodules; single or multiple skin lesions that are often found on cooler parts of the body such as the face, buttocks, and extremities; thickening of the skin and peripheral nerves; skin ulcerations; loss of sensation in peripheral nerves; muscle weakness (for example, clawed hand deformities, contractures, and foot drop); hoarseness; sexual dysfunction or sterility in men when testicles are affected; eye pain, eye redness, inability to close the eyelids, corneal ulcers, and blindness; loss of eyebrows and eyelashes; and destruction of nasal cartilage.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.