Enhanced lipid peroxidation and decreased antioxidant defences have been defined in several diseases. In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the oxidative-antioxidative status of patients with cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL). Concentrations of erythrocyte lipid peroxidation (LPO), as an indicator for the oxidative status, reduced glutathione (GSH), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and serum vitamin C levels, as indicators for the antioxidative status, were measured. Seventy patients aged between 15 and 50 years (38 patients had active CL and 32 patients had healed CL) and 40 healthy controls aged between 19 and 50 years were included in the study. LPO and GSH of the patients with active CL were significantly higher (p < 0.001), whereas erythrocyte GSH-Px and serum vitamin C levels were lower (p < 0.001, p < 0.01 respectively) than those of healthy controls. There was a significant inverse correlation between LPO and serum vitamin C level (r= -0.32, p < 0.05) in active CL. No significant correlation of LPO, GSH, GSH-Px and serum vitamin C levels in control groups or in the group with healed CL was detected. In the light of our findings it is possible to conclude that patients having CL are affected by oxidative stress, which most likely induces the endogenous antioxidant system. An imbalance between the oxidant and antioxidant systems occurs and the suppressed antioxidants and increased lipid peroxidation may contribute to the progression of the disease. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.