Leprosy is an infectious disease involving the skin and nerves of infected individuals. Left untreated, nerve damage and other complications occur as the disease progresses. Lack of feeling leads to wounds and to deformities of the face and limbs.
In many communities leprosy leads to stigma towards those affected and their families, causing them to be shunned and even excluded from everyday life. Leprosy remains endemic in poorer parts of the world. Around 230,000 new cases are reported worldwide each year. In addition, it is estimated that at least 3 million people are living with some permanent disability due to leprosy, although the exact figure is unknown.
Fortunately, leprosy can be completely cured with a few months of effective drug treatment. If this is started at an early stage, most patients need never suffer the damaging complications of leprosy.