Has anyone in your family developed white spots on the skin and loss of sensation in the area? If that is the case, take them immediately to a dermatologist to rule out leprosy. According to government statistics, leprosy has been “eliminated” from the country. But, the disease seems to be making a comeback if experts are to be believed.
Prof. Thota Manidhar of the NRI Medical College Social and Preventive Medicine says the government version gives the impression that the disease, which carries a huge amount of stigma, has been eradicated. According to the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP), the disease was eliminated from the country in 2005. But, the fact remains that the prevalence of the disease has only come down to one case in 10,000. Prof. Manidhar says the word, “eliminated”, could be used only when there are no cases at all.
According to him, with the shutting down of the NLEP, the prevalence of the disease has increased. “Before multi-drug therapy (MDT) was available in 1983, the prevalence of the disease was 50 cases per 10,000. In 2005, because of NLEP, it fell to one case per 10,000. Now, the prevalence has increased five-fold to five cases per 10,000. And, a lot of patients are being referred to bigger hospitals,” he says.
Nevertheless, not all white spots are symptoms of leprosy. But, it is essential that one visits a dermatologist to rule out the possibility. Also, there are powerful drugs for leprosy treatment today.
“Just as in the case of TB, leprosy patients should be regular with their medicines for a period ranging from six to 18 months. Leprosy drugs are not expensive, too,” says Dr. Manidhar.
Early detection and treatment are recommended, as the real burden of leprosy is disability, not the disease. Though MDT cures leprosy, late or incomplete treatment leads to nerve damage, he adds.