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             An infectious disease, known since Biblical times, which is characterized by disfiguring skin lesions, peripheral nerve damage, and progressive debilitation. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes, apart from some other structures. Leprosy has afflicted humanity since time beyond measure. It once affected every continent and it has left behind a terrifying image in history and human memory - of mutilation, rejection and exclusion from society.
             Alternative names.
             Hansen's disease .
             Causes .
             Leprosy is caused by the organism Mycobacterium leprae. It is a difficult disease to transmit and has a long incubation period, which makes it difficult to determine where or when the disease was contracted. Children are more at risk than adults to contracting the disease.
             Leprosy has two common forms, tuberculoid and lepromatous, and these have been further subdivided. Both forms produce lesions on the skin, but the lepromatous form is most severe, producing large disfiguring nodules. All forms of the disease eventually cause peripheral neurological damage (nerve damage in the extremities) manifested by sensory loss in the skin and weakness of the muscles. People with long-term leprosy may lose the use of their hands or feet due to repeated injury which results from absent sensation.
             Leprosy is common in many countries in the world, and in temperate, tropical, and subtropical climates. Approximately 100 cases per year are diagnosed in the United States. Most cases are limited to the South, California, Hawaii, and U.S. island possessions. Effective medications exist, and isolation of victims in "leper colonies" is unnecessary. The emergences of drug-resistant Mycobacterium leprae, as well as increased numbers of cases worldwide, have led to global concern about this disease. .
             • permanent nerve damage .
             • cosmetic disfigurement.

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