World Leprosy Day: Symptoms and Treatment Options


Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vikas Kumar Sharma

General Health

5 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Leprosy Day is celebrated to educate people about the disease & its treatment
  • A multidrug therapy was introduced in 1984 by WHO for leprosy treatment
  • World Leprosy Day is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of January

Leprosy is a chronic infection caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria. This disease affects your eyes, upper respiratory tract, peripheral nerves and skin. World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of January every year i.e 30th January 2022. This aids in spreading awareness about leprosy as the disease that has been overlooked for a long time. Reports reveal that every year around 2,50,000 people are globally affected by this condition [1]. Observing Leprosy Day is a reminder to offer proper treatment and care for those affected by it.

Leprosy spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets either from the mouth or nose. While it initially attacks your respiratory system, the bacteria migrate from there to your skin and nerves. To know more about this condition and the leprosy eradication program, read on.

What are the early signs of leprosy?

The symptoms of leprosy are usually seen within a year after coming in contact with the bacteria. In some cases, symptoms can even show up after 20 years [2]. Following are some early signs of leprosy:

  • Sores, lumps, or bumps on the skin that do not go away after few weeks
  • Patches on the skin – dark skinned people may see light patches and pale skinned people may have dark patches
  • Decrease or loss of sensation in the patches
  • Lumps or swelling in earlobes or face
Additional Read: Scabies Disease Causescomplications of leprosy

What are the different forms of leprosy?

Leprosy is classified into three types. This is dependent on the number and type of skin sores you have. The three forms of leprosy are:


This is a form where only a few lesions are seen on the skin. It is not severe and is mildly contagious. Due to nerve damage, the affected skin may feel numb. 


This is a more severe form. You may notice rashes and bumps all over your skin along with muscle weakness and numbness. Kidney, nose, and male reproductive organs may also be affected. 


People with borderline leprosy may have the symptoms of both forms. This considered as a type between the other two listed above.

WHO categorizes leprosy based on the skin smears as follows [2]:

  • Paucibacillary is the form where you may show negative skin smears on all affected areas. 
  • Multibacillary is the form where there are positive skin smears at any affected area. This is a more severe form. 

How is this condition diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing leprosy is a physical exam. This will help your doctor identify an early signs of leprosy. If your doctor suspects leprosy, they may perform a biopsy. During this process, the doctor will collect a small piece of the skin or nerve for lab tests. 

To determine the type of leprosy, your doctor may perform a lepromin skin test. In this, a small quantity of inactive leprosy bacterium is injected in the upper forearm. If a positive result is seen at the injected site, then you may have borderline tuberculoid or tuberculoid leprosy. With timely diagnosis and treatment, leprosy can be cured

World Leprosy Day: Symptoms -59

What is the leprosy treatment regime?

Leprosy can be cured with the help of multidrug therapy (MDT). For leprosy treatment under MDT, multiple drugs are used depending on the classification of leprosy. The antibiotics for management of leprosy include the following:

  • Ofloxacin
  • Clofazimine
  • Dapsone
  • Minocycline
  • Dapsone

Apart from these antibiotics, your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs. These may include aspirin, thalomid and prednisone. Make sure that you do not consume thalomid during pregnancy as it can lead to severe birth defects.

How is World Leprosy Day observed?

Established in 1954 by Raoul Follereau, World Leprosy Day is observed with two goals in mind. The first one is for equal treatment for people with leprosy and the second is to reeducate and spread awareness of the condition and dispel myths. 

In 2022, World Leprosy Day will be celebrated on 30th January. The theme for the year is ‘United for Dignity’. The main aim of this theme is to promote the right of those with leprosy to lead a dignified life free from discrimination and stigma. 

In 1955, the Government of India launched a National Leprosy Control Programme. In 1982, after the introduction MDT, the programme was converted into National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP). The conversion happened in 1983 with leprosy eradication being the main goal. 

Additional Read: Contact Dermatitis Types

The best way to prevent yourself from this condition is to distance yourself from an individual suffering from leprosy. This way you can ensure that you are not affected by any of the leprosy symptoms. Other prevention methods include eating immunity boosting superfoods. To fight fungal infections of skin, make sure you follow proper skin care tips as leprosy affects your skin too. If you notice any unusual skin infections, you can contact reputed dermatologists on Bajaj Finserv Health. Book an online doctor consultation and measures to keep yourself safe.

Published on 28 Jan 2022Last updated on 13 Apr 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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