Supportive Care for Leprosy, Handling Reactions, and the Prognosis
Supportive care does not affect the progression of leprosy, but it can help reduce symptoms and minimize complications. It is important to note that many of the deformities and disabilities associated with leprosy are preventable. Supportive care for leprosy typically includes consultation and treatment from:
- Orthopedic surgeons (bone doctors)
- Eye doctors
- Physical therapists.
Examples for treatment of leprosy complications can include:
- Specialized footwear
- Reconstructive surgery.
Some patients experience what is called a reaction after their treatment has begun. This reaction:
- Can also occur in untreated leprosy patients, although it is less common
- Is a response of the immune system to dead or dying bacteria
- Can cause the leprosy rash to become worse (called erythema nodosum leprosum)
- Can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, and joint pain
- Can cause painful inflammation of nerves (neuritis), which can affect sensation and/or strength.
Reactions can be mild or severe. If mild, no treatment, or only over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, may be needed. More severe reactions can be harmful to nerves and should be promptly treated by a physician. Treatment of these reactions can involve a corticosteroid medicine, such as:
Prognosis After Treatment
After successful treatment, people with the disease are considered free of active infection. A number of leprosy symptoms can improve with treatment, such as leprosy skin lesions. Other symptoms or complications, such as nerve damage, may improve very little with treatment. Worldwide, there are an estimated 2 to 3 million cases of people who have completed leprosy treatment but still have residual disabilities.