Trachoma is a type of inflammatory eye infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. In this condition, the bacterium roughens the inner eyelids causing pain and burning sensation in the eyes. Furthermore, this breaks down the cornea of the eyes leading to loss of vision.

The condition worsens when left untreated for a long time. It may cause permanent blindness when the eyelids turn inwards. The disease is communicable as the bacterium is transferable through direct or an indirect contact with the other person. Nose, eyes, and ears can be the medium for the bacterium to get transferred from one person to the other.

Surveys have shown, that about 80 million people are suffering through this condition. Apart from the clinical causes of Trachoma, here are some other underlying reasons that give rise to this condition, such as poverty, poor hygiene, poor sanitation, poor living conditions, crowded areas etc. So, taking general preventive measures can reduce the risk of catching Trachoma.

Symptoms Of Trachoma

An individual may experience the symptoms similar to conjunctivitis, or irritation like pink eye (conjunctivitis). Trachoma results from chronic inflammation in the eyes which occurs after multiple episodes of repeated infection in the eyes. The chronic conjunctival infection is called “Active Trachoma”. White lumps are seen in the undersurface of the upper eyelid along with prolonged irritation and a watery discharge.

Further, an active trachoma may get converted to “Cicatricial Trachoma” which includes scarring in the eyelids leading to distortion in the structure which makes the lashes rub over the eyes. The situation may even worsen when the blood vessels and scar tissues invade the upper eyelids.

Here are the most commonly seen symptoms of trachoma:

  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Watery discharge from the eyes
  • Formation of white lumps under the surface of upper eyelids
  • Misdirected eyelashes called as Trichiasis
  • Inflammation in the eyes
  • Roughening of inner eyelids
  • Distortion in the eyelids
  • Swollen lymph nodes in front of the ears
  • Ear, nose and throat complications with the worsening of situation

Another major complication of Trachoma includes corneal ulcer due to rubbing by concentrations with bacterial infections.

Causes Of Trachoma

Chlamydia Trachomatis is a small parasitic bacteria that causes Trachoma. The bacterium gets transferred directly or indirectly through ear, nose and eye secretions of an individual. Flies and insects may carry these secretions from one person to the other.

The bacteria get transferred due to poor living conditions such as poor sanitation, shared towels, filthy water supply (making trachoma a type of waterborne disease), poor hygiene on personal and community level. It is commonly seen in crowded and endemic areas. Children between the age group of 3-5 years are prone to catching this eye infection through their siblings, parents, and playmates. It happens after multiple episodes of infection in the eyes.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Trachoma may not show any severe symptoms initially but there are many tests including the bacteriologic tests available for the clinical diagnosis of Trachoma. Eyes and eyelids are examined to diagnose trachoma. Other than this, patient’s history and living conditions are checked to reach a conclusion.

The eye examination is done through a biomicroscope which helps in seeing the changes in the eyes and eyelids. Symptoms related to conjunctiva and cornea irritability can also be seen through an eye examination.

Ways To Prevent Trachoma

Trachoma is not so commonly seen in cold climates and developed nations. It is a problem that has risen out of poor living standards and low level of hygiene. Preventive measures can be taken both at the environmental and clinical level.

  • Environmental Measures

Environmental changes play a vital role in the prevention of trachoma to a great extent. You can avoid such an infection by making small changes in the environment you live. This can be avoided by proper sanitation, good living conditions, and improvement in the areas of water to reduce the risk of transmission from one person to the other.

  • Clinical Measures

Apart from environmental factors, antibiotic therapy can be undertaken at a mass level to avoid this infection. Since children between 3-9 years are more prone to getting trachoma, it is advised to conduct a social campaign at a community level to enhance the living conditions and to educate parents about the infection. Moreover, annual antibiotic treatment with the regular administration would help in reducing the active trachoma.

Managing Trachoma

  • Surgery

Individuals suffering from trachoma or trichiasis can get relief through surgery namely bilamellar tarsal rotation which redirects the lashes. Moreover, using lid clams and absorbable sutures would help in reducing the abnormalities.

  • Antibiotics

Antibiotic would definitely help at an initial stage. It may help in reducing the inflammation caused by the infection. It may also help in stopping the watery discharge from the eyes and eventually the infection will subside after getting a proper antibiotic therapy.

  • Lifestyle Changes

Facial cleanliness is very important especially for children in the age group of 3-9 years. Also, making proper lifestyle changes such as improved sanitation, maintaining cleanliness in the environment and usage of clean water can help with reducing the risk of catching trachoma.

So this was all about Trachoma, its symptoms, causes, and treatment. Hope this article has proved informative.

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