Debunking Myths Associated with Leprosy.
Leprosy, a chronic disease that targets the nervous system, is not only one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world, but also one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized health conditions. It especially affects the cooler nerves of the body like toes of the hands, feet, and face, leading to anesthetizing (loss of all feeling and sensation) of those parts of the body. The problem – if not detected and addressed in time can lead to disfigurement and even amputation of the affected parts.
For centuries, leprosy was believed to he incurable and those affected by it were ostracized by society, fearing the spread and horrific physical damage associated with the disease. In this way, the stigma continued, with new misconceptions being added.
Today, even though, we have a cure for the disease, the cure to the stigma is still being found. On the occasion of World Leprosy Eradication Day (observed on the last Sunday of January every year), let us break free from some popular myths associated with the disease.
Fact: No 1 – Until the 20” century, no cure was discovered, But now there are treatments. Leprosy, if diagnosed early, is completely curable through MDT, i,e. Multi-Drug Therapy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is committed to providing MDT to every country working to eliminate leprosy. In India, MDT is available free of cost in all government health care centres
Fact: No 2 – Anyone can be affected. The reason that more economically weak people suffer from it is due to their lack of awareness about diagnosis and treatment. The social stigma makes them shunned and even more vulnerable.
Fact: No 3 – Entirely. It is not contagious like influenza or the common cold. It is only transmitted through repeated and close contact, where causal bacteria flows from the infected to the healthy person, via droplets from the nose and mouth. So, a casual handshake or sharing a meal (indifferent plates) is not risky.
Fact. No 4 – This is a bizarre statement. The body parts don’t just fall off that way. The disease attacks the Cold nerves of the body and leads to the loss of sensitivity in the affected body part. This makes the sufferer more prone to injury and infection in such areas. It is for this reason that, sometimes, amputation becomes unavoidable.
Remember, leprosy is just a disease and not a curse. It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor. It can affect anyone, but it is not incurable. Timely detection and treatment can help ward off the disease.
The appearance of white patches on the skin, often on the hand’s arms, legs, area under the eye or the tissue lining inside the nose
• Redness or/and soreness at the site of the patches
• Muscle weakness
• Feeling of numbness or a tingling sensation (like needle pricks) in the affected area
• Skin lesions that last and don’t heal for weeks
Be aware and alert! If anyone around you has these symptoms, Please get a diagnosis done immediately.