Trachoma is a serious, persistent eye infection that often causes permanent scarring of the cornea, the transparent front part of the eye.
Trachoma is a serious, persistent eye infection that often causes permanent scarring of the cornea, the transparent front part of the eye. Although rare in developed countries, trachoma is one of the world’s main causes of blindness. It affects about 400 million people, of whom about 6 million are blind.
How is it caused?
Trachoma is caused due to the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which is spread to the eyes by direct contact with contaminated hands or by flies. Trachoma is common in poor parts of the world, particularly in hot, dry countries that have poor sanitation and limited water supplies. Overcrowding encourages the spread of the trachoma infection.
What are its symptoms?
Initially, Trachoma causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the white of the eye and lines the eyelids. Later symptoms include:
- thick discharge from the affected eye that contains pus.
- redness of the white of the eye.
- gritty sensation in the eye.
Over time, repeated episodes of trachoma can cause scarring on the insides of the eyelids. The scars may pull the eyelids inwards and cause the eyelashes to rub against the delicate cornea. Left untreated, the condition can lead to blindness.
How is it treated?
In the early stages, trachoma is treated with antibiotic eyedrops or ointment. If the cornea has become scarred, sight may be restored by an operation called a corneal graft, in which a cornea from a donor is used to replace a scarred one.
What precautions should one take?
To avoid becoming infected in a high-risk area, you should wash your hands and face regularly and avoid touching your eyes with dirty fingers.