Leprosy: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 2/12/2021

Leprosy is a slowly developing, progressive disease that causes damage to both the skin and nervous system. The infection spreads from person to person by nasal droplets or secretions.

As leprosy progresses, it can cause very disfiguring skin lesions. Symptoms and signs of leprosy include

  • painless ulcers,
  • hypopigmented macules (flat, pale areas) on the skin, and
  • eye damage (dryness, reduced blinking).

Large ulcerations, loss of digits, skin nodules, and facial disfigurement may develop. Other symptoms and signs can include

  • thick, stiff or dry skin,
  • painless ulcers on the soles of the feet,
  • painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes, and the
  • loss of eyebrows or eyelashes.

Cause of leprosy

Leprosy is caused by an infection with Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis.

Other leprosy symptoms and signs

  • Eye Damage (Dryness, Reduced Blinking)
  • Facial Disfigurement
  • Hypopigmented Macules (Flat, Pale Areas) on the Skin
  • Large Ulcerations
  • Loss of Digits
  • Loss of Eyebrows or Eyelashes
  • Painless Swelling or Lumps on the Face or Earlobes
  • Painless Ulcers on the Soles of the Feet
  • Painless Ulcers
  • Skin Nodules
  • Thick, Stiff or Dry Skin

Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.