Progression of leprosy neuropathy: a case series study.
A need still exists to determine the clinical and neurophysiological characteristics of leprosy neuropathy at distinct times of the disease by different methods that measure the various nerve fiber functions. A prospective clinical study was performed with 10 paucibacillary (PB) and 12 multibacillary (MB) patients evaluated at diagnosis and one year after cessation of multidrug therapy (MDT). Peripheral nerve function was assessed clinically and by means of the sympathetic skin response, skin vasomotor reflex, and nerve conduction study (NCS). At diagnosis, 73% of the total 22 patients had nerve function impairment (NFI). Autonomic function (χ(2)= 5.5, P= 0.019) and NCS (χ(2)= 7.765, P= 0.01) were significantly more altered in MB than PB patients. At final evaluation, NFI of the MB patients had worsened, especially among the six who had leprosy reaction. As the NFI of PB patients showed improvement, a significant difference between the two groups (χ(2)= 12.320, P= 0.001) was observed. A high prevalence of neuropathy was observed in newly diagnosed patients. Associating different tests with a thorough clinical neurological evaluation increases detection rates.