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The medical term for Leprosy is Hansen’s disease. It is a chronic, non-infectious disease that invades the nerves and disfigures the body, mucus membranes or skin.

Leprosy Skin diseases


There are two classifications for Hansen’s disease: paucibacillary Hansen’s disease and multi-bacillary Hansen’s disease. There are a wide range of symptoms for Hansen’s disease.

Paucibacillary Hansen’s disease appears as one or more hypo-pigmented skin macules –small pigmented spot on the skin that is neither raised nor depressed. These patches have no feeling. Multi-bacillary Hansen’s disease appears as symmetric skin lesions, plaques, thickened skin, or nodules. Frequently, Multi-bacillary Hansen’s disease involves the nasal mucus tissue causing congestion and nose bleeds or epistaxis. Hanson’s disease does not cause rotting flesh, as is the popular notion. The body’s continues attempts to expel the disease lead to the destruction and excessive regeneration/growth and mutilation.


Hansen’s disease begins with pale or slightly red areas of the skin. Hansen’s disease can also begin with a loss of feeling to these areas or a loss of feeling to the hands or feet. A diagnosis is made via biopsy of the skin to detect the bacterium Hansen’s bacillus.


The disease is caused by a bacterial plasmid a small circle of DNA that replicates itself independently of chromosomal DNA known as Hansen’s bacillus. The bacterium invades the human nerves disfiguring the body and skin. Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered the bacteria in 1873 For millennia, sufferers of Leprosy have been called Lepers. Because of the negative connotations, this term is no longer in use. The terms, leprosy and lepers first appeared in the English language in the 1300s from Greek and Hebrew.

Hansen’s disease is contagious, but the medical community is in agreement that ninety-five percent of the population has a natural immunity to the disease. It is believe that the disease is transmitted by the fluid of the respiratory tract, since a large amount of the bacteria is founding the nose of untreated individuals. The amount of exposure, genetic predisposition, and impaired immune system are factors that affect the transmission of Hansen’s disease.


There are up to two million people permanently disabled from Hansen’s disease. New understanding regarding the cause of the two forms of Hansen’s disease have let to prevention. Prevention requires minimizing pressure on the areas of the skin most likely to be affected – such as sleeping on hard surfaces and maintaining good health to boost the immune system. India has the greatest number of Hansen Disease cases, followed by Brazil and Myanmar.

Once believed incurable, Hansen’s disease is now treated with a multi drug therapy. Usually a six month treatment plan for milder cases is prescribed. More sever cases can endure treatment for two years or more with an additional treatment of steroids for swelling. The three most commonly used drugs in the multi-drug treatment are Dapsone, Rifampin and Clofazimine. Other antibiotics such as Clarithromycin, Ofloxacin, Levofloxacin and Minocycline also have excellent antibacterial activity against M. leprae

Improving the detection of the disease is vital to treatment. Unfortunately, the first stages can appear like a number of other skin diseases. A patient can become non-infectious and cured in a short period of time. Because of some cultural beliefs, individuals may feel compelled to hide their condition and avoid seeking treatment. Education about Hansen’s Disease is extremely important in the cultures today that have a higher population of sufferers and a higher stigma associated with the disease.

Historical Information and Present Statistics:

Famous people in history who suffered from Hansen’s disease:

• Henry (VII) of Germany, King of Sicily and Germany and Duke of Swabia
• Baldwin IV, Latin King of Jerusalem (1161-1185, reigned 1174-1185), who was depicted in the 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven
• Aleijadinho, a Brazilian sculptor in the 1700s, had been disfigured by the disease for more than twenty years.
• Joseph (Jozef) de Veuster (Father Damien), a Roman Catholic missionary who helped lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, died of the disease.
• HallgrĂ­mur PĂ©tursson, one of Iceland's most famous poets and a priest, died from leprosy.
• Robert the Bruce of Scotland was said to have leprosy, and when his skull was unearthed it was missing the canine teeth—a likely skeletal sign of leprosy.

Before treatment and cure, people with Hansen’s disease were banned from the community. The common belief was that leprosy was a curse and sufferers were bad or ‘unclean’. There are still colonies in the world today in countries such as India, Liberia and the Philippines.

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