The objective of the study was to determine the magnitude of hand/feet/eye disabilities in newly diagnosed leprosy patients by examining all newly diagnosed leprosy patients who presented at the Eastern Leprosy Control Project (supported by The Netherlands Leprosy Relief Association), made up of a regional clinic in Biratnagar and 5 mobile clinics in surrounding districts.
The study comprised of all new and previously untreated patients who presented at the clinics over a 10-week period who were diagnosed as leprosy sufferers.
Of the 260 leprosy patients examined 12 (4.6%) had sight-threatening lesions (lagophthalmos, iris involvement, corneal anaesthesia); 3 patients were blind due to cataract; 96/260 patients (37.0%, 95% confidence interval 35.0-43.0%) had 1 or more disabilities of their hands and/or feet. The most frequently found disabilities were sensory loss of the hands and feet, claw hand and plantar ulcers. According to the WHO disability grading 60% had no disabilities, 19% had grade 1 and 21% had grade 2 disability.
Disability assessment is very important not only to evaluate the effectiveness of the control programme but also for the patient, whose most important worry is the stigmatizing deformities leprosy patients suffer. The earlier detection of sensory loss might reduce these secondary deformities.