Trachoma

By Dr. Mutahar Ahmed
Updated 2024-03-06 17:47:50 | Published 2023-03-08 16:11:01
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An abstract illustration of Trachoma

Trachoma is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the eye. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and primarily affects the conjunctiva and cornea. Trachoma is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide.

Trachoma – a devastating infectious eye disease

What is Trachoma?

Trachoma is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It primarily affects the eyes and is known to be a major cause of preventable blindness globally.

How is Trachoma Transmitted?

Trachoma is transmitted through direct contact with eye, nose, or throat secretions of affected individuals or through contact with contaminated objects, such as towels or clothing. Flies can also transfer the bacteria from person to person.

What are the Symptoms of Trachoma?

Early symptoms include irritation in the eyes, discharge, swelling of eyelids, and light sensitivity. Repeated infections can lead to scarring, eyelid turning inwards, and blindness if left untreated.

How is Trachoma Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is typically made through clinical examination. Health professionals look for characteristic signs on the inner surface of the eyelids. Laboratory tests can confirm the presence of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria.

What are the Treatment Options for Trachoma?

Treatment includes antibiotics such as azithromycin to eliminate the infection. In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary to correct eyelid deformities. Hygienic practices are also important in prevention and control.

Can Trachoma be Prevented?

Prevention strategies include improving access to clean water and adequate sanitation, encouraging facial cleanliness, controlling fly populations, and treating affected communities with antibiotics to reduce transmission.

Is Trachoma Common Worldwide?

Trachoma is most common in poor, rural communities in developing countries, particularly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Efforts are ongoing globally to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

The disease is transmitted through direct contact with eye and nasal discharge of infected individuals, as well as by flies that have come into contact with the discharge. It predominantly affects overcrowded communities with limited access to clean water, sanitation, and healthcare services.

Trachoma has a gradual onset and if left untreated, it can result in chronic inflammation, scarring of the eyelid, and corneal damage. This can eventually lead to irreversible visual impairment and blindness. The disease is more prevalent in areas with poor hygiene, inadequate facial cleanliness, and limited availability of antibiotics.

Prevention and control strategies for trachoma include improved hygiene practices, access to clean water and sanitation, face washing with soap, and the implementation of the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvements) as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics can effectively cure trachoma and prevent its complications.

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Trachoma elimination programs have been successful in reducing the burden of the disease in many countries. However, it remains a public health concern in certain regions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries with limited resources for healthcare. Ongoing efforts to enhance surveillance, treatment, and prevention strategies are essential in achieving the global goal of eliminating trachoma as a public health problem.

Causes of Trachoma

  • Prolonged exposure to the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Unhygienic living conditions
  • Poor sanitation facilities
  • Close contact with infected individuals
  • Inadequate access to clean water
  • Presence of flies that can spread the disease

Trachoma

  • Eye redness and irritation
  • Excessive tearing
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Blurred vision
  • Eyelid itching and discharge
  • Granulation tissue formation inside the eyelids
  • Trichiasis (eyelashes rubbing against the cornea)
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