Signs and Symptoms of Hansen's Disease

Key points

  • Hansen's disease (also known as leprosy) is caused by slow growing bacteria.
  • Symptoms mainly affect the skin, nerves, and lining of the nose.
  • Loss of sensation in affected areas can occur, increasing the risk of injuries going unnoticed due to the decreased ability to sense touch and pain.
  • Hansen's disease hard to spread and easily treatable.
Hansen's disease lesions on a person's back and arms

Skin symptoms

  • Discolored or lighter patches of skin
  • Nodules on the skin
  • Thick, stiff, or dry skin
  • Painless ulcers on the soles of feet
  • Painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes
  • Loss of eyebrows or eyelashes
A light-colored skin lesion on someone's chest
Lesions from Hansen's disease are often lighter than the rest of the skin.

Symptoms caused by nerve damage

  • Numbness of affected skin areas
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis, especially in the hands and feet
  • Enlarged nerves, usually around the elbows, knees, and side of the neck
  • Eye problems that may lead to blindness
A red skin lesion and enlarged nerves on a person's chest
Hansen's disease can cause enlarged nerves.

Nasal symptoms

  • A stuffy nose
  • Nosebleeds


If left untreated, advanced Hansen's disease can cause:

  • Paralysis and crippling of hands and feet
  • Shortening of toes and fingers due to reabsorption
  • Chronic non-healing ulcers on the bottoms of the feet
  • Blindness
  • Loss of eyebrows
  • Nose disfigurement
  • Painful or tender nerves
  • Redness and pain around the affected area
  • Burning sensation in the skin
A person with untreated Hansen's disease shows their hands and feet.
Advanced, untreated Hansen's disease can cripple the hands and feet.