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Int J Rheum Dis. 2013 Apr;16(2):129-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1756-185X.2012.01819.x. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Leprosy revealed in a rheumatology clinic: a case series.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Immunology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, India.



Leprosy classically presents with cutaneous and neural involvement. Rheumatological manifestations are frequent, although often under-recognized. At times, these may present to a rheumatology clinic prior to the diagnosis of leprosy. Herein, we present our experience with patients referred with various rheumatological disorders who were subsequently diagnosed as having leprosy.


This retrospective study (January 2001-September 2010) was carried out at the Department of Clinical Immunology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, in northern India. Patients who were confirmed as having leprosy were included. Details regarding demographic and clinical presentations were collected.


Forty-four cases (30 male, mean age 40 ± 13.6 years and mean disease duration 18.7 ± 24.3 months) were identified. Musculoskeletal manifestations included arthritis (n = 22), swollen hands and feet syndrome (SHFS) (n = 11), tenosynovitis (n = 9), painful swollen feet (n = 9), arthralgias (n = 7) and vasculitis (n = 1). Distribution of joints mimicked rheumatoid arthritis (n = 14) and spondyloarthropathy (n = 7). Arthritis and/or tenosynovitis were part of spontaneous onset lepra reaction in 28 cases. Other clinical manifestations were: paresthesias (n = 28), erythematous nodules (n = 25) and anesthetic patches (n = 7). Thirty-one patients had thickened nerves (ulnar n = 28, common peroneal n = 21). Eight patients did not have any cutaneous manifestations and had presented with SHFS and arthritis or tenosynovitis. These were labeled as pure neuritic leprosy. Most of the patients responded to multidrug anti-leprosy therapy and glucocorticoids.


Rheumatological presentations of leprosy may mimic RA, spondyloarthropathy or vasculitis. Pure neuritic variety and spontaneous type 2 lepra reaction pose unique diagnostic challenges. Increased awareness may avoid delay in diagnosis.

© 2012 The Authors International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases © 2012 Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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