Trachoma (Ancient Greek: "rough eye") is a highly contagious eye disease which may result in blindness. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and it is spread by direct contact with eye, nose, and throat secretions from affected individuals, or contact with objects, such as towels and/or washcloths, that have had similar contact with these secretions. The bacteria has an incubation period of 5 to 12 days, after which the affected individual experiences symptoms of conjunctivitis, or irritation similar to "pink eye."
Further symptoms include:
- Eye discharge
- Swollen eyelids
- Turned-in eyelashes
- Swelling of lymph nodes in front of the ears
- Cloudy cornea
If not treated properly with oral antibiotics, the symptoms may escalate and cause blindness, which is the result of ulceration and consequent scarring of the cornea. Surgery may also be necessary to fix eyelid deformities.
The disease is one of the earliest recorded eye afflictions, having been identified as early as 27 B.C. It is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and currently afflicts over 400 million people, most of whom live primarily in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken countries in Africa, the Middle-East, and Asia. Rare in the United States, the disease can be treated with antibiotics and prevented with adequate hygiene and education.
- NIH/Medline Plus
- Blindness and Babysitting
- New York Times article Preventable Disease Blinds Poor in Third World Published: March 31, 2006