Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Leprosy

Important
It is possible that the main title of the report Leprosy is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.

Synonyms

  • Hansen's Disease

Disorder Subdivisions

  • Indeterminate Leprosy
  • Borderline Tuberculoid Leprosy
  • Midborderline Leprosy
  • Borderline Lepromatous Leprosy
  • Lepromatous Leprosy
  • Tuberculoid Leprosy

General Discussion

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease of humans caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. For many years, it was considered a mysterious disorder associated with some type of curse, and persons with the disease were isolated and ostracized. Today, there is effective treatment and the disease can be cured. There is no longer any justification for isolating persons with leprosy.

The disease can affect the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes and some of the nerves that are located outside the central nervous system (peripheral nerves). These are primarily the nerves of the hands, feet, and eyes, and some of the nerves in the skin. In severe, untreated cases, loss of sensation, muscle paralysis of hands and feet, disfigurement, and blindness may occur.

Leprosy has traditionally been classified into two major types, tuberculoid and lepromatous. Patients with tuberculoid leprosy have limited disease and relatively few bacteria in the skin and nerves, while lepromatous patients have widespread disease and large numbers of bacteria. Tuberculoid leprosy is characterized by a few flat or slightly raised skin lesions of various sizes that are typically pale or slightly red, dry, hairless, and numb to touch (anesthetic). Lepromatous leprosy is at the other end of the spectrum, with a much more generalized disease, diffuse involvement of the skin, thickening of many peripheral nerves, and at times involvement of other organs, such as eyes, nose, testicles, and bone. There are also intermediate subtypes between these two extremes that are commonly known as borderline leprosy. The intermediate subtypes are borderline tuberculoid, midborderline, and borderline lepromatous leprosy. Borderline leprosy and the subtypes are characterized by more extensive disease than polar tuberculoid, with more numerous skin lesions and more nerve involvement, but not as widespread disease as in lepromatous leprosy. Indeterminate leprosy refers to a very early form of leprosy that consists of a single skin lesion with slightly diminished sensation to touch. It will usually progress to one of the major types of leprosy.

In 1982, the World Health Organization proposed a simplified classification that has only two classifications, Paucibacillary (PB) and Multibacillary (MB), leprosy. This classification is now used worldwide for treatment purposes. The older and somewhat more complex classification is still used in some programs, especially for clinical research studies. The Paucibacillary classification encompasses indeterminate, tuberculoid and borderline tuberculoid leprosy. The Multibacillary classification includes midborderline, borderline lepromatous and lepromatous leprosy.

Resources

American Leprosy Missions
1 ALM Way
Greenville, SC 29601
USA
Tel: (864)271-7040
Fax: (864)271-7062
Tel: (800)543-3135
Email: amlep@leprosy.org
Internet: http://www.leprosy.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: (404)639-3534
Tel: (800)232-4636
TDD: (888)232-6348
Email: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/

National Hansen's Disease Programs
1770 Physicians Park Dr
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
USA
Tel: (800)642-2477
Email: mtemplet@hrsa.gov
Internet: http://www.hrsa.gov/hansens/

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Office of Communications and Government Relations
6610 Rockledge Drive, MSC 6612
Bethesda, MD 20892-6612
Tel: (301)496-5717
Fax: (301)402-3573
Tel: (866)284-4107
TDD: (800)877-8339
Email: ocpostoffice@niaid.nih.gov
Internet: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/

Leonard Wood Memorial American Leprosy Foundation deleted
120 Broadus Avenue
Greenville, SC 29601
SUA
Fax: 8642411755
Tel: 8772411736
Email: uholland@leonardwoodmemorial.org
Internet: http://www.leonardwoodmemorial.org/index.html

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center
PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
TDD: (888)205-3223
Internet: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

Center for Peripheral Neuropathy
University of Chicago
5841 South Maryland Ave, MC 2030
Chicago, IL 60637
Tel: (773)702-5659
Fax: (773)702-5577
Internet: http://peripheralneuropathycenter.uchicago.edu/

For a Complete Report:

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be downloaded free from the NORD website for registered users. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational therapies (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site www.rarediseases.org or email orphan@rarediseases.org

Last Updated:  4/8/2009
Copyright  1986, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007, 2009 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Organization of Rare Disorders

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.