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What is Leprosy?


The Disease:

Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. If left untreated, leprosy is a disease that will create health problems, physical impairment, and long-lasting mental health and social complications for those affected.


Though it is contagious, leprosy is not transmitted through casual contact. Researchers are not sure how leprosy is spread. The World Health Organization suggests that it is transmitted through moisture from the nose and mouth during frequent and close contact with an untreated leprosy-affected person.

Physical Indicators of Leprosy

Social Effects of Leprosy

For a person affected by leprosy, the physical impacts are a small part of the horrors they may face. Sometimes, a person with the disease will not receive proper care and treatment because they hide, or are rejected from their community and even their family. With leprosy comes so much ignorance and fear, and a person affected by it often feels humiliated, ashamed and terrified. It is not uncommon for a leprosy-affected person to experience mental health issues like depression because they are marginalized members of society.

Ignorance about the disease is widespread, both in areas affected by leprosy and in Canada. Leprosy causes fear in many societies. In regions where leprosy is still a concern, the idea that a person is unclean, highly contagious, or even “sinful,” is very common.
Facts on Leprosy

The Cure and Care

1) Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) - A blend of drugs that kills all known strains of leprosy bacteria. Patients receive MDT for 6 months to two years.
2) Surgery – Repairs tissue damage, foot-drop, clawed hands and can restore eyelid function.
3) Rehabilitation – Massage and physiotherapy can help restore use of hands and feet.
4) Education - Patients learn how to protect their health, as leprosy leaves people vulnerable to infection and loss of limb.
5) Self-care – Feeling can never be restored to hands and feet, leprosy-recovered people learn to soak their feet and oil their skin regularly to keep it soft. They will check daily for wounds.

Advocacy and Re-integration:

After a person has received treatment for the physical effects of leprosy, the next step is to overcome the social challenges that they face as a leprosy-recovered person. Through the work of TLMC, and our partners, part of the cure is patient education and skill-development, and promotion of patient self-determination through micro-financing, self-help and self-cure groups.
Broadly, the cure for leprosy must involve changes in policy in some local governments to ensure that those affected by leprosy will not be marginalized by law.

The Cure

Cure A Person
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Caring for the Whole Person

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