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Pure neuritic leprosy in India: an appraisal.


BACKGROUND: Pure neuritic leprosy (PNL) constitutes a significant proportion of all cases in India, however, this form of disease has not been fully recognized and investigated and there is little information in the existing literature.

OBJECTIVE: To study the epidemiological characteristics of PNL in India.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective analysis of leprosy clinic records for the period 1993 to 2003 was undertaken. Detailed demographic profiles and clinical findings were noted from the predesigned clinic proforma. A slit-skin smear for acid-fast baclli (AFB) was done in all cases from the area of sensory loss. A skin biopsy was done from the area of sensory impairment to study histopathological changes. Further investigations such as nerve conduction velocity studies (NCV), fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC), or nerve biopsy (superficial nerve twigs) were done if indicated in patients whenever there was difficulty in clinical diagnosis.

RESULTS: Of the total 1542 leprosy patients seen over this period, 65 (4.2%) had PNL. Males were more commonly affected than females (2.6:1.). The majority of patients 40/65(61.5%) were aged between 15 and 35 yrs. Predominant presenting symptoms were paresthesia, pain, sensory/motor deficit, and trophic changes. A majority of the patients 39/65 (60.0%) presented with involvement of 2 or more nerves in the same extremity. Mononeuritis was seen in 26 (40%) patients. The nerves most often involved were the right ulnar nerve in the upper extremity, and the right common peroneal nerve in the lower limb. In general, the nerves of the upper extremity were more commonly involved than in the lower limbs (67 vs. 55). Motor deformities such as claw hand and foot drop were present in 13/75 (20%) and 7/65 (10.8%) patients, respectively. Slit-skin smears were negative in all patients, and skin histopathology from the area of sensory loss revealed non-specific inflammation in the dermis in a majority of patients, with perineural inflammation in a few. All patients were treated with multi-drug therapy (MDT); patients with >/=2 peripheral nerve trunk involvements were treated with WHO MDT MB regimen, while others were administered WHO MDT PB regimen. Follow-up for up to 2 yrs was available in only 32/65 (49.2%) patients, none of whom developed any skin lesions during this period.

CONCLUSION: PNL is a distinct subset of disease frequently seen in India. There is need to pay more attention to this form of leprosy and diagnose and treat patients earlier to prevent deformities and sequelae of nerve damage.

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Journal Article
Kumar B
Kaur I
Dogra S
Sendhil Kumaran M