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A delayed diagnosis of lepromatous leprosy: pitfalls and clues to early recognition


  • Conflicts of interest: None.

Nadia El Fékih, md
Departement of Dermatology
Charles Nicolle Hospital
Bab saadoun


Purpose  To remind special attention to atypical symptoms of Hansen’s disease, we report a case of an atypical case due to a delayed diagnosis.

Background  Clinical features of leprosy are well known, cutaneous lesions and involvement of the peripheral nerves being the cardinal clinical signs. Among these presentations, systemic involvement, including mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, is rarely reported even if it is still commonly seen in endemic areas, in particular lepromatous leprosy.

Case report  We describe here a new case of Hansen’s disease in a 51-year-old Tunisian woman with an atypical presentation and a delayed diagnosis. The early symptoms of the disease were different from the main clinical signs of Hansen’s disease since they involved the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. A nasal smear was positive for acid-fast bacilli, thus confirming the diagnosis of bacilliferous leprosy. Histological findings suggested the diagnosis of leprosy and were somewhat more characteristic of the borderline lepromatous type.

Conclusion  Diagnosis of Hansen’s disease in patients with neither apparent skin lesions nor neurological signs is still problematic. Clinicians should not only pay attention to the more obvious signs in their own fields of expertise but should be aware of the possible systemic involvement of leprosy.