British Leprosy Relief Association
Healthcare seeking behaviour and delay in diagnosis of leprosy in a low endemic area of China
aShandong Provincial Institute of Dermatology, Shandong, P.R. China
bShandong Clinical College of Skin Diseases, Anhui Medical University, Shandong, P.R. China
Correspondence to: Shumin Chen, Shandong Provincial Institute of Dermatology, 57 Jiyan Lu, Jinan, Shandong, P.R. China 250022 (e-mail: email@example.com)
Delay in diagnosis of leprosy can increase the risk of nerve function impairments and promote the transmission of the infection in a community. In order to understand the factors associated with the delays in diagnosis of leprosy, a questionnaire-based interview was conducted to collect information on the delays among 88 newly diagnosed leprosy patients. The results showed that delay was common and associated with the high rate of disability in the study population. The total mean delay was 50.18 months (median 36 months). The mean patient delay was 24.4 months (median 9.5 months) and the mean health service delay was 25.7 months (median 12 months). Patients with leprosy reported a variety of symptoms/signs at an early stage of the disease, particularly numbness and tingling. Ignorance of the illness was reported to be the main reason for the patient’s delay. Health seeking actions ranged from 1 to 50 with a mean of 7.2 after becoming aware of the first symptom/sign. The effectiveness of early diagnosis of leprosy through health promotion in the population needs to be validated and continuous training on leprosy among healthcare providers is needed.