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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Leprosy
      Category : Health Centers > Infections (Infectious Diseases)


Alternate Names : Hansen's Disease

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Leprosy is a chronic infection involving nerves and the skin. It is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.

What is going on in the body?

Leprosy occurs when the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria attacks tissues in the person's body. There are three forms of leprosy:

  • lepromatous, the most serious type, which damages the upper respiratory tract, eyes, testes, nerves, and skin
  • tuberculoid, which affects peripheral nerves and, sometimes, the surrounding skin, especially on the face, arms, legs, and buttocks
  • borderline, which has characteristics of both lepromatous and tuberculoid leprosy
  • What are the causes and risks of the infection?

    Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It is spread through contact with nasal secretions from an untreated, infected person. Close contact over a period of time is needed to transmit leprosy. It is not highly contagious, but it can also be transmitted through skin breaks, such as one made with a contaminated needle.

    Children are more susceptible than adults to contracting leprosy. Nine out of 10 people may have a natural immunity to the disease. Leprosy is most prevalent in underdeveloped regions, especially China and India. Worldwide, approximately 11 million people have the disease.


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    Leprosy: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Danielle Zerr, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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