Symptoms Of Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis: Cause And Treatment

Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the Leishmania parasite which lives in infected sand flies. Infection develops from a bite from an infected sand fly.

There are 3 forms of leishmaniasis. Different species of the Leishmania parasite cause different forms of infection.

  1. Cutaneous leishmaniasis afflicts the skin and is not very serious.
  2. Visceral leishmaniasis affects the internal organs and is deadly and life threatening, resulting in death.
  3. Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis affects the skin and the mucus membrane and results in part or whole destruction of the mucous membranes in the nose, mouth and throat and is very disfiguring.

The sand flies which carry the Leishmania parasite reside in tropical and subtropical climate. The mucocutaneous infection is most commonly seen in – Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Sadly, the affected regions are very inaccessible and have only partial resources for optimal treatment management. Doctors have dubbed leishmaniasis as one of the most dangerous and neglected tropical diseases.

A rare form of the disease is the mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. The disease affects your skin and mucus membrane. Skin ulcers and lesions develop first and several months after skin ulcers heal, the mucous membranes of the nose and palate get afflicted.

It does not heal on its own and always needs treatment.

Signs And Symptoms Of Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis

The symptoms of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis presents as:

  • The first chief symptom is the development of painless skin ulcers. The symptoms come on 1 to 2 weeks after you have been bitten by an infected sand fly. On the other hand, at times symptoms may not appear for several months or even years.
  • 1 to 5 years after the skin lesions heal, the mucus membranes get affected. This is seen as ulcers in the mouth, palate, lips and nose.
  • You may have a runny nose or a nose block.
  • Nose bleeds are common as well.
  • You may also experience some breathing difficulty.

What Causes Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis?

Leishmaniasis is caused by the Leishmania parasite. You develop leishmaniasis when you get an infected sand fly bites you. The sand flies dwell in tropical climatic conditions.

The Leishmania parasite multiplies inside the female sand fly. The sand fly is most active in warm and wet environments and at night, from sundown to dawn. Farmyard animals, such as – horses and dogs, are known to act as vector for the parasite.

Transmission is also known to occur from a domestic animal to sand fly to humans. Humans pass on the Leishmania parasite via blood transfusion or when they share needles.

Treatment Of Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis

It is very essential that you receive prompt and correct treatment to manage the infection well and prevent complications. Anti-parasitic drugs, like amphotericin B treat the infection well. The sores and lesions cannot heal naturally. Medical attention is always required.

Amphotericin B and paromomycin are the drugs used to manage mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. Medication can cure the infection totally. Conversely, treatment is most effective when it is started before there is damage to your immune system. Unhappily, these places are fairly inaccessible and timely treatment isn’t always possible.

The condition is fraught with a host of complications such as – bleeding, other infections attacking you because of a weak immune mechanism, and disfigurement. The lesions and ulcers are known to cause permanent scarring and disfigurement. Nonetheless, treatment will help decrease the severity.