People can only get leprosy if they come in close and repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone who has the condition and has not been treated, advises WebMD. Children are at higher risk of contracting leprosy than adults.
Mycobacterium leprae, a bacteria that grows slowly, is the cause of leprosy, which is also called Hansen's disease after the scientist who discovered the bacteria, WebMD explains. Disfiguring skins sores that do not go away after weeks or months, loss of feeling in the arms and legs, and muscle weakness are symptoms of leprosy. Most people do not display the symptoms of leprosy until between three and five years of coming into contact with the bacteria that causes the disease, and in some they cases may not display symptoms for 20 years.
Most people infected with leprosy live in Africa and Asia, as of 2015, with about 100 people suffering from the condition each year in the United States, according to WebMD. Doctors treat patients with leprosy differently based on whether they suffer from its tuberculoid, lepromatous or borderline forms. Tuberculoid leprosy is not as severe and less contagious, while lepromatous leprosy is more contagious and causes more severe symptoms. People with borderline leprosy suffer from the symptoms of both its tuberculoid and lepromatous forms.