Arthritis in leprosy

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Dec;49(12):2237-42. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq264. Epub 2010 Aug 19.


Leprosy, a chronic granulomatous infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae, classically presents with cutaneous and neurological manifestations. Musculoskeletal involvement though third most common is underdiagnosed and underreported. It may manifest in the form of Charcot's arthropathy, acute symmetrical polyarthritis or swollen hands and feet syndrome during lepra reactions, insidious-onset chronic symmetrical polyarthritis mimicking RA or as isolated tenosynovitis or tenosynovitis associated with arthritis or neuropathy. At times, articular involvement may be the sole presenting manifestation even without cutaneous lesions. Other rheumatological manifestations occasionally reported are enthesitis, sacroiliitis, cryoglobulinaemic vasculitis and DM. With increasing travel of population between tropical and temperate zones, it is likely that rheumatology clinics in countries free of leprosy may come across cases of leprosy with rheumatological manifestations. Delay in diagnosis and management may be detrimental and may result in deformities and loss of function. Not only this, but recent reports of leprosy being diagnosed in native white populations following anti-TNF-α therapy should alert rheumatologists across the globe to be more familiar with this disease. This review is aimed at presenting a comprehensive clinical scenario of various rheumatological manifestations of leprosy to sensitize rheumatologists and physicians across the continents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / complications*
  • Arthritis / physiopathology
  • Clofazimine / therapeutic use
  • Dapsone / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Leprosy / complications*
  • Leprosy / physiopathology
  • Mycobacterium leprae / isolation & purification
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use


  • Leprostatic Agents
  • Dapsone
  • Clofazimine
  • Rifampin