Leprosy is a major health problem in some developing countries and is associated with significant physical deformity, psychological disability and social stigma. The psychosocial impact of this disease is beyond the imagination of most people and ironically lingers for years even after its cure. This, in part, may be rooted in many misconceptions that surround leprosy, such as being incurable, hereditary or a consequence of divine punishment for bad deeds, resulting in segregation of patients from the society and isolation from the family that may accentuate the negative attitudes and associated stigma. Two types of stigmatization can be associated with leprosy: social and self-stigmatization, both of which can lead to social or self-imposed isolation. However, self-stigmatization (30%) was found to be more than social stigmatization (8%).
The psychological morbidity due to leprosy has been found to be positively correlated with the physical disability, knowledge about the disease as well as social, emotional and health maladjustment, but not correlated with the duration of the disease. Higher prevalence of depression and anxiety is seen in leprosy patients. A total of 58% of patients expressed suicidal thoughts and 8% made actual suicidal attempts. Other problems faced by patients include: separation from social events, responsibilities and rejection in marital relationships and employment.[107,108] The results of one study indicate that 67% patients consider leprosy as the sole reason for not getting a partner for marriage. Similarly, divorce is another important consequence of leprosy. Loss of employment result in many patients becoming either dependents or beggars.
Expert Rev Pharmacoeconomics Outcomes Res. 2009;9(3):271-283. © 2009 Expert Reviews Ltd.
Cite this: Burden of Skin Diseases - Medscape - Jun 01, 2009.