What Is Leprosy?

Also known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is a bacterial disease that affects the areas of the body furthest from the heart: the face, hands and feet. The infection is a slow-moving, but horrifying invasion of the neurological system.

The skin near the affected nerves changes colour and eventually loses all sensation. This is often the first clue that the patient has leprosy. In regions far from clinics, health care workers may use a feather or soft cotton wick to test for sensitivity in areas where the skin shows discolouration or unusual thickening.

As the bacteria continue to attack the body, the discoloured patches may grow. The weakened nerves contract the ligaments, clawing the toes and fingers into the foot or palm. When left untreated, the patient loses use of their hands and feet.

Because of the loss of sensation, a person with leprosy may drop their hand into boiling water or step on a sharp object and they feel nothing. The injuries cause no pain and the patient, often living in squalid circumstances, ignores their treatment. Left unchecked, the infection consumes bone mass. The result is that the finger or toe, foot or hand, look as if they have been gnawed off.

For centuries, leprosy went untreated and without research. The myths associated with leprosy increase the stigma attached to the disease. Because of this, leprosy is likely to affect a sufferer’s life in every way imaginable: physically, mentally, socially, economically, and spiritually.

Generally, though not exclusively, leprosy spreads wherever people live in overcrowded conditions, have poor nutrition and depleted immune systems –  the poorest of the world’s populations.

That’s why your support of the Leprosy Mission is so important. Together, we can reach the remote areas and bring healing and hope to those who are needlessly suffering from leprosy.



The myths associated with leprosy increase the stigma attached to the disease.


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