A recent report in one of the leading media publication highlighted a rise in the number of leprosy cases in Tamil Nadu. Not long back, the WHO had declared that leprosy has been eradicated from the world Ie less than 1 in 10,000 people are affected by this dreaded infection. “Leprosy is not only there but is coming back in a more complicated way”, states Dr. Pradip Laha, consultant dermatologist in Fortis Hospital Anandapur.
As Dr. Laha correctly puts it, people generally recognize only the extreme form of leprosy i.e. falling off of fingers and nose. However, in reality, majority of the cases experience the non-infectious or tuberculoid form of leprosy. This form is characterized by the presence of whitish or pinkish patches which are insensitive to touch, pain and temperature. The extreme form of leprosy is the lepromatous type, which presents as a generalized shiny induration or thickening of the skin of the various major parts of the body like arms, back etc with prominent deep follicular depression giving it an orange peel appearance. “Any patch with an iota of doubt should be examined in this line to exclude leprosy before thinking of anything else” alerts Dr. Laha.
In recent times, treatment of leprosy is a nightmare for physicians. With the WHO declaring the disease to be eradicated, most of the major pharmaceutical companies have either considerably reduced or stopped the production of leprosy medications. Thus, it has become extremely difficult for the patients and the physicians alike to get access to the medicines even in the government hospitals.
The leading dermatologist at Fortis Hospital Anandapur also brings to the forefront the importance of GPs and Medical officers at the primary hospitals stating that, “These front desk people should undergo a rigorous training in leprosy detection and basic diagnosis and treatment so that they can diagnose and detect these stray cases amongst the regular patients in OPDs and chambers.” The researchers in the medical field are also working on development of a vaccination for the prevention of leprosy.