Before considering treatment, the first step is to make sure the diagnosis is correct.

Treatment decisions should be individualized. Health care providers may consult CDC staff about the relative merits of various approaches. Examples of factors to consider include the form of leishmaniasis, the Leishmania species that caused it, the potential severity of the case, and the patient’s underlying health.

The skin sores of cutaneous leishmaniasis usually heal on their own, even without treatment. But this can take months or even years, and the sores can leave ugly scars. Another potential concern applies to some (not all) types of the parasite found in parts of Latin America: certain types might spread from the skin and cause sores in the mucous membranes of the nose (most common location), mouth, or throat (mucosal leishmaniasis). Mucosal leishmaniasis might not be noticed until years after the original sores healed. Ensuring adequate treatment of the cutaneous infection may help prevent mucosal leishmaniasis.

If not treated, severe (advanced) cases of visceral leishmaniasis typically are fatal.

More on: Resources for Health Professionals: Treatment

Page last reviewed: February 14, 2020