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Signs and Symptoms

Feet of someone with Hansen's diseaseThe bacteria that cause Hansen's disease grow very slowly. It may take 2-10 years before signs and symptoms appear.

Symptoms mainly affect the skin, nerves, and mucous membranes (the soft, moist areas just inside the body's openings).

The disease can cause:

  • Skin lesions that may be faded/discolored
  • Growths on the skin
  • Thick, stiff or dry skin
  • Severe pain
  • Numbness on affected areas of the skin
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis (especially in the hands and feet)
  • Eye problems that may lead to blindness
  • Enlarged nerves (especially those around the elbow and knee)
  • A stuffy nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Ulcers on the soles of feet

Since Hansen’s disease affects the nerves, loss of feeling or sensation can occur.

When loss of sensation occurs, injuries (such as burns or fractures) may go unnoticed. You should always try to avoid injuries. But, if you experience loss of sensation due to Hansen’s disease (or another cause), you may not feel pain that can warn you of harm to your body. So, take extra caution to ensure your body is not injured.