Infection of the eye caused by Chlamydia trachomatis is referred to as trachoma. Trachoma infection may result in blindness after repeated reinfections. It is the common cause of blindness all over the world. Trachoma is mostly seen in people living in overcrowded conditions with limited access of water and health care assistance. Trachoma mainly affects the inner lining of eyelid which eventually causes eyelashes to fold inside.
In the initial stages trachoma causes mild itching and irritation of eyes and eyelids. According to World Health Organization around 6 million people suffer with blindness worldwide due to trachoma. Trachoma generally affects the eyelids and conjunctiva of the eye. During the course of infection the eye becomes red and inflamed and can result in scarring of conjunctival surface of eyelids.
Trachoma patients experience pain and irritation due to scarring of eyelids and inward folding of lid margin. Corneal scarring results in decreased or total loss of vision. Chlamydia trachomatis can cause repeated infections resulting in scarring of conjunctival surface, when left untreated. Children affected with trachoma do not experience blindness in the childhood. Infection if left untreated can lead to blindness in adulthood.
Trachoma is caused by the small parasitic bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis. Poor sanitation, unclean water supply and poor hygienic conditions allow the bacteria to infect and reinfect the eyes of individuals. Trachoma is spread by direct or indirect contact with eye, nose and throat of the infected person. Throat secretions also help in transmitting the disease from person to person. Clothes and materials used by the infected person can also act as carrier of the infective organism. Trachoma can be indirectly transferred via flies and other insects that sit on the contaminated water bodies. Chlamydia trachomatis is also causes sexually transmitted infection in humans.
Trachoma symptoms are usually seen in both the eyes. The most common symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Eyelid swelling
- Mild itching on the eyelids
- Irritation of the eye
- Discharge of mucus or pus from the eyes
- Light sensitivity or photophobia
Treatment and Prevention
Trachoma can be treated in the initial stages using antibiotics. Eye ointments and oral antibiotics both have effective results in treating trachoma. Use of antibiotics can reduce the spread of trachoma. In later stages of trachoma surgery is required to treat eyelid deformities. Eyelid deformities can be treated with eyelid rotation surgery and in few cases the eyelashes are removed to relieve the pain and irritation. Inward turning of eyelashes are the main cause of surgery in trachoma patients. Corneal transplantation is required in few patients who experience severe significant corneal scarring. World Health Organization developed a SAFE strategy to treat trachoma. SAFE strategy stands for Surgical care, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement. Trachoma can be prevented by educating the people regarding proper sanitation and hygiene. Many countries have eradicated trachoma by acquiring proper hygienic conditions in their communities. Oral antibiotics and eye ointments can be used as a common preventive measure to avoid the spread of infection.