Diagnosis of leprosy

The diagnosis of leprosy is essentially clinical, although a laboratory test (the slit skin smear) is important in some cases.

little boy being checked for leprosy

Normally, the diagnosis of leprosy rests on finding any one of three cardinal signs:

  • one or more hypo-pigmented, anaesthetic skin patches, typical of leprosy;
  • one or more thickened peripheral nerves; or
  • a positive skin smear.

As with many diseases, the most accurate diagnostic test is a biopsy, with subsequent staining and histopathological examination of the tissues.

One major topic for research at present is the development of new diagnostic tests which may allow leprosy to be diagnosed with confidence at a much earlier stage. This would mean that treatment could begin earlier, resulting in reduced disability and reduced transmission of the disease to contacts.

For further reading please download

How to Diagnose and Treat Leprosy ; Comment Diagnostiquer et Traiter la Lepre

How to Recognise and Manage Leprosy Reactions ; Comment Reconnaitre et Traiter les Reactions Lepreuse

How to do a Smear Examination for Leprosy ; Comment Realiser un Examen de Frottis Cutane Pour la Lepre