Buruli ulcer

    • Brief

    • Buruli ulcer is a bacterial infection that affects the skin. This infection causes a large, expanding wound in your skin. It starts from a small ulcer and then keeps on increasing in size if it is not treated. Buruli ulcer mostly affects the hands and legs, and the sore is often painless. It is commonly seen in children (5-15 years) in West Africa.

      Treatment usually involves a long course of antibiotics and constant nursing of the wound. There may be significant, long-term scars formed by the infection and ulcers.

    • What are the symptoms?

    • The following are common symptoms seen in the progression of this condition:

      • Firstly, you notice a small spot that is like a bite from an insect.
      • Then there is an increase in the size of the spot in weeks.
      • Then the spot breaks open like a wound.
      • The wound then increases in size in days.
      • There is usually no pain or fever.
      • Presence of swelling of the legs or hands.

      Note that this particular progression may not be the same for everybody.

    • What are the causes?

    • An infection with the bacterium Mycobacteria ulcerans causes Buruli ulcers.

    • What are the things that put you at risk?

    • Your chance of getting this skin infection increases when one or more of the following apply to you:

      • Poor hygiene such as not washing your hands or bathing well.
      • Swimming in dirty water. The risk becomes higher when the water is not moving or flows slowly.
      • Playing with dirty sand especially when you have an open wound.
      • You have a poor defence against infections due to a medical condition such as diabetes.

    • When to visit a doctor?

    • You must visit your healthcare provider immediately when you notice any of the following:

      • You have a skin ulcer that doesn’t go away in few days or weeks.
      • The ulcer increases in size and/or gets deeper.
      • You notice a discharge or pus (yellow or green) from the ulcer or wound.

    • How to prevent?

    • There is no known way to prevent an infection with the bacteria that causes Buruli ulcers. This is because we do not understand how the infection is contracted or passed from person to person. People who have received the BCG vaccine (part of the routine immunization in Nigeria) may have limited protection from the infection.

      The objective is to detect the infection early, reduce injury and suffering.

    • How to manage and treat?

    • Self-care tips:

      • Wash your hands frequently, bath regularly and keep your home and surroundings clean at all times.
      • Avoid swimming or bathing in rivers or streams that are not moving.
      • Discourage children from playing in dirty sand.
      • Ensure that you cook fish properly before eating them, as they may carry the bacteria that cause the disease.
      • Include fruits and vegetables like watermelon, oranges, cabbage or tomatoes in your diet. This improves your body's defence against infections.
      • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers to avoid insect bites, as the bacteria may enter your skin through the tiny wounds caused by the bites. You can also use insect repellant creams.
      • Do not use herbal remedies without first talking to your healthcare provider.

      Treatment options:

      • Your healthcare provider may give you antibiotics to fight the infection.
      • If you have pain or fever, you may be given pain-relieving medicines or antihistamines.
      • Surgery may be needed when the ulcer is big. Surgery will remove dead cells and assist in starting the process of wound healing.

    • Kulawa cares

    • Practicing good hygiene is very important in preventing infections, so wash your hands and bath regularly. Always clean and take care of your wounds or any other opening in your skin. Clean them with clean water and cover them properly. Contact your healthcare provider if the ulcer or wound does not go away in a few days. Use the drugs that your healthcare provider prescribed as recommended. This is to prevent the condition from recurring.