DMTX. Leprosy is a disease which affects the body’s nervous system, Premananda Memorial Leprosy Hospital cares for leprosy complications, deformity prevention and surgical correction of deformation. Kolkata, India. 16/11/2009
Premananda Hospital, Kolkata, India
Leprosy is a disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. This bacterium affects the body’s nervous system, concentrating on the cooler parts of the body. Affected areas are skin, eyes, and muscles in the hands and feet. There are two different initial reactions to the disease; some people develop clearly defined pale skin patches indicating the bacterium is isolated in one area. In more extreme cases where the patient has no resistance to the disease, there is very little definition between the patches and the healthy skin. With this type of case, it is much more difficult to detect the disease in its early stages.
As the disease progresses, the symptoms only get worse: numbness in hands and feet make the patient vulnerable to cuts and infections that can’t be felt, stiffened muscles cause clawed hands, loss of the blinking reflex leads to total blindness, and in some cases amputation of fingers, an arm or leg is necessary.
Leprosy is thought to be infectious, transmitted through airborne droplets, such as when someone sneezes or coughs. But most people – about 95% of the population – are naturally immune. Yet there are over 1,100 new cases detected every day.
People who contract leprosy are affected both physically and socially. This disease has been around since Biblical times and the myths, fear and stigma surrounding it still remain strong. From small children to older adults, people with leprosy are ostracized, shamed and forced out of their communities and homes. The person with the disease is usually so humiliated and frightened they go into hiding, failing to get treatment as the disease worsens.
Over the last 20 years, TLMC (The Leprosy Mission Canada) has been working to decrease the prevalence of leprosy in Kolkata, India through providing care at Premananda Memorial Leprosy Hospital. This community based hospital cares for leprosy complications, deformity prevention and surgical correction of deformation. It is the only hospital in Kolkata that focuses on the prevention and correction of deformity and rehabilitation of leprosy patients.
While much has been done, many major challenges still exist. A large number of patients have deformities and disabilities. Many of these patients simply cannot afford investigations and treatment elsewhere for associated illnesses such as severe anemia, tuberculosis and diabetes. Many are uneducated and live in poor conditions in communities that still impose stigma against those with leprosy.
The Leprosy Mission helps leprosy patients find solutions to physical problems faced because of their disease. By providing out-patient services in dermatology, ophthalmology and surgery, more patients will receive help for their physical ailments.
In addition to providing treatment, the Leprosy Mission is also focusing on increasing awareness and knowledge of leprosy in the medical community. A team of professionals with a greater depth of knowledge in the field of leprosy will allow for better care for those affected by leprosy.
The Premananda Memorial Leprosy Hospital is providing an essential service to those in Kolkata with leprosy. It is our hope that men and women with leprosy can receive the care they need to look to the future with optimism.
Kolkata, India, 16/11/2009