World Leprosy Day is observed globally each year on the last Sunday of January. The 2020 campaign which falls on 26th January aims to raise awareness and knowledge about leprosy – a chronic, progressive bacterial infection and call attention to the fact that it can be prevented, treated and cured. Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called “Mycobacterium leprae” that cause severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs and skin areas around the body. The disease primarily affects the nerves, skin, eyes, lining of the nose (nasal mucosa) and the upper respiratory tract. If left untreated, the nerve damage can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability resulting in crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness. Physicians providing treatment for any such disabilities can rely on outsourced medical billing companies to meet their medical billing and coding requirements
The one-day awareness campaign aims to change attitudes that stigmatize and marginalize people affected by the disease. The condition is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. Leprosy is common in many countries, especially those with tropical or subtropical climatic conditions. According to official figures from 159 countries (from the 6 WHO Regions), about 2, 08,619 new leprosy cases were registered globally in 2018. The condition is not very common in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting only 150 to 250 new cases of leprosy in the US every year. It is estimated that about 50 percent of people affected by leprosy will face mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
The 2020 campaign provides a unique platform to draw attention towards the often neglected aspects of leprosy – the deep-rooted myths and misconceptions about the disease that many persons affected experience daily. Leprosy is defined by the number and type of skin sores a person suffers. The different types of leprosy include – Tuberculoid, Lepromatous, Borderline and Indeterminate leprosy. Skin lesions, muscle weakness and numbness in the hands, arms, feet and legs are the common symptoms associated with the condition. The skin lesions cause the affected areas to lose the ability to sense touch, temperature or pain, leading to injuries such as cuts and burns. Generally, the affected skin changes color and either becomes lighter or darker (often dry or flaky, with loss of feeling) and reddish due to inflammation of the skin. It usually takes about 3 to 5 years for symptoms to appear after coming into contact with the leprosy-causing bacteria. In some cases, people do not develop symptoms until 20 years later.
Diagnosis of this condition will involve a physical exam to look for possible, revealing signs and symptoms of the disease. Physicians will perform a biopsy in which they remove a small piece of skin or nerve and send it for diagnostic testing. In addition, a lepromin skin test will be performed to determine the form of leprosy. Treatment depends on the type of leprosy that a person suffers. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection. For severe cases, two or more antibiotics are recommended (usually from six months to a year) at the same time. Physicians may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin (Bayer), prednisone (Rayos), or thalidomide (Thalomid) to control nerve pain and damage related to leprosy. The treatment time will last for months and possibly up to 1 to 2 years. Physicians treating leprosy patients, must correctly document the symptoms, screening tests and other treatment procedures offered using the correct diagnosis codes. Medical billing services offered by billing and coding companies can help in timely claim submissions. ICD-10 codes used for diagnosing different types of leprosy include –
- A30 – Leprosy [Hansen’s disease]
- A30.0 – Indeterminate leprosy
- A30.1 – Tuberculoid leprosy
- A30.2 – Borderline tuberculoid leprosy
- A30.3 – Borderline leprosy
- A30.4 – Borderline lepromatous leprosy
- A30.5 – Lepromatous leprosy
- A30.8 – Other forms of leprosy
- A30.9 – Leprosy, unspecified
The World Leprosy Day was first initiated in the year 1953 by the French philanthropist and writer, Raoul Follereau, as a way to raise global awareness of this deadly disease and call attention to the fact that it can be prevented, treated and cured. As part of the campaign, several organizations and non-governmental (NGOs) will hold public and educational outreach events to give people information about how to prevent the spread of the disease. Organizations will also hold rallies and marathons to raise money for research and providing treatment and rehabilitate those afflicted with the disease. Physicians and other medical professionals spend time discussing with the public how to recognize the symptoms of leprosy early. In addition, seminars and workshops will be held around the world to address the problems faced by leprosy patients and to find ways to reduce the social stigma faced by them.
Join the global campaign against leprosy on January 26. Increase public awareness about the fact that leprosy can now be easily prevented and cured.