Hansen Neuropathy: Still a Possible Diagnosis in the Investigation of a Peripheral Neuropathy
Keywords:Leprosy, Peripheral Nervous System Diseases, Portugal.
AbstractIntroduction: Leprosy is still one of the most frequent causes of peripheral neuropathy. Although regarded as eradicated in Portugal, is still documented in neuropathological study of patients with clinical peripheral neuropathy without proper diagnosis.
Material and Methods: Review of the cases of Hansen disease neuropathy diagnosed in Neuropathology Unit of Centro Hospitalar do Porto between 1978 and 2013, atending to gender, age, clinical manifestations and neuropathological findings.
Results: Twenty one patients were identified with neuropathological diagnosis of Hansen’s disease neuropathy, predominantly male. The mean age at diagnosis was 52 years, and sensory symptoms predominate as neurological manifestation of disease. Interval between symptoms and diagnosis was 1-38 years. In most nerve samples tuberculoid type of disease was identified. Bacilli were detected in skin and nerve in 44% of cases.
Discussion: Mononeuritis is the most common presentation of leprosy but other clinical manifestations are possible, including skin lesions. Infection with M. leprae injures myelinated and unmyelinated fibres, with replacement of nerve tissue by collagen fibrosis. The diagnosis of leprosy is only achieved by neuropathological study of skin lesions and / or peripheral nerve, supported by the identification of the bacillus.
Conclusion: Hansen disease remains a public health problem in tropical areas and, although rare, still described in Western countries reason why should still be considered as a diagnostic possibility in the investigation of peripheral neuropathy.
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