Leprosy (Hansen's Disease), sometimes called "Hanseniasis" or "H.D.," is a chronic my cobacterial disease of man, caused by Mycobacterium leprae (infectious in some cases), primarily affecting the peripheral nerves and secondarily involving skin and certain other tissues/organs, in particular the eye, mucosa of the nasal and upper respiratory tract and also the testes. In most cultures, HD still carries a strong stigma that sometimes makes more trouble for the patient that the actual leprosy itself.
One of the main characteristics of Leprosy is its ability to affect the various nervous systems of the body, particularly the peripheral nerves. The key targets of M.leprae (Mycobacterium leprae) are the nerves' Schwann Cells. Leprosy does not affect the Central Nervous System. Where the sensory nerves are damaged, in varying degrees, they cannot register pain. Where those nerves supply the extremities of hands and feet, the latter are vulnerable to burns and other injuries that can often result in the loss of fingers and toes and sometimes hands and feet. Where the eye is affected, corneal anesthesia. Cranial Nerve involvement, can often lead to blindness, where the lack of health education makes the sufferer unaware of the means to prevent injury due to dust or other irritants. Where the motor nerves are involved, various forms of paralysis such as "Dropped Foot", "Dropped Wrist", "Clawed Hand", "Lagophthalmos" (eye cannot close due to nerve paralysis) can result. Where the autonomic nerves are damaged, the hair follicle, particularly in the cooler areas such as the eye-brows, can often result in the loss of hair in the affected parts. Damage to the autonomic nerves also can result in poor or no function of the sweat and sebaceous glands. This causes a drying of the skin and consequent cracking, exposing the sufferer to secondary infection.
Leprosy is not a curse from the gods or divine punishment for some sins committed in the past. Leprosy is a disease like any other disease and it is TOTALLY CURABLE. Another myth that still prevails, even in "educated" societies, is that the disease causes flesh to rot and fingers and toes to "drop off". Nothing could be further from the truth. Tragically, limbs that are damaged, because the victim cannot feel pain, sometimes have to be amputated but, we can now detect the disease before the patient is conscious of any loss of sensation. Even if the patient has experienced some measure of deformity, we are able, through chemotherapy, physiotherapy, and reconstructive surgery, to correct many of the disabilities. Ideally, we should detect the disease before there is any need for physiotherapy or reconstructive surgery. In such cases, where only chemotherapy is required, treatment is very cheap. On the average, it costs only $15.00 per month to provide drugs and services to cure one patient of leprosy. What other disease, of such horrendous magnitude, can be treated for a mere $180.00 per year?