Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) is a chronic, infectious disease involving the skin and nerves of infected individuals. Evidence of leprosy has been found in skeletons from the ancient Near East and it became a common disease in Europe in medieval times. The disease died out in most of Europe for reasons which are not clear, more than 200 years ago, although there were significant numbers of new cases in Norway until the early years of the 20th century.Pale patches on the skin are usually the first sign of the disease – they are painless and do not itch, so are often ignored by the patient. In the past, nerve damage and other complications occurred as the disease progressed. The numbness and lack of feeling in the limbs often led to festering wounds on the hands and feet, and then to the characteristic deformities of the face and limbs.