Visible disability as a presenting feature of leprosy: a rare but real concern in post-elimination phase in India

Vasudha A. Belgaumkar, Ravindranath B. Chavan, Nitika S. Deshmukh, Dhanshri D. Gangode


Leprosy (Hansen's disease) is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, affecting mainly peripheral nerves and skin. Delayed diagnosis contributes to sensory-motor impairment leading to deformity and disability, thereby imposing a major impact on the physical, social, economic and psychological domains of the quality of life of affected individuals. Deformities and disabilities are largely preventable complications associated with tremendous social stigma and discrimination, assuming public health significance. India declared elimination of leprosy more than a decade and half ago in 2005. Hence, grade 2 disability is expected to be a rare manifestation in the post-elimination era. However, to the contrary, the proportion of new leprosy patients with visible disability recorded in India exceeds the global rate. Herein we report a middle-aged female presenting with saddle nose, bilateral fixed ulnar and mobile median claw hands (grade 2 disability) with multiple trophic ulcers. This case emphasizes that clinical suspicion after careful examination of skin and neural manifestations is of utmost importance for the early diagnosis of leprosy. Timely self-reporting and management with WHO-multi drug therapy (MDT) remains the key to minimize the risk of deformity and disability. Above all, it is essential to create awareness amongst the community regarding prompt recognition of symptoms and easy access to appropriate care along with intensified efforts to address the associated stigma.


Leprosy, Impairment, Disability, Diagnostic delay

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