One of the leading causes of blindness caused by infection is likely not one you would really clue into. Trachoma is a disease caused by bacteria and it can cause blindness, particularly in people in indigenous countries who do not have ready access to sanitary conditions or proper medical attention. Several African countries lead the pack in incidences of Trachoma.
Cause and Transmission
This disease is contagious and is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium related to the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia. This disease usually affects both eyes rather than just one. This is because the disease is spread through mucosal membranes, particularly secretions from the throat, nose and eyes.
It is the discharge from these mucosal places that is infectious so it is quite easy to rub your eyes and then your nose spreading it around. Wiping the secretions on towels and other items can transmit the disease as well to other people. In third world countries, flies can carry the bacteria as well.
If caught early, trachoma can be successfully treated with little to no change in eyesight. While no vaccine exists for this disease, it is totally preventable with proper attention paid to sanitation and prevention of the spread of germs. For this reason, the United States has virtually no cases of trachoma reported.
Major Risk Issues
Trachoma is a disease often found in poverty stricken areas as they do not have ready access to proper hygienic and sanitary conditions. Crowded living conditions and water supplies that are not readily accessible are also risks and lend themselves to disease. If you plan to travel to any rural areas where hygiene and sanitary conditions are not the norm, it is important to take proper precautions to prevent contracting trachoma.
For some reason, women are more susceptible to infection than men. In addition, in areas where trachoma is prevalent, children in the toddler range are more likely to get the disease than older children and adults.
Symptoms of Trachoma
Discharge from one or both eyes is common and usually is pus or mucus. There is also mild irritation and itching, as if sand were in the eyes. These are early stages of the disease. As trachoma progresses, there will be eye pain, impaired vision and even sensitivity to light.
Upon medical inspection, early stages of trachoma may show little white bumps on the inner upper eyelid area. As the disease progresses, this eyelid area swells and may thicken with infection. Scarring could be the result if the trachoma is left untreated. The cornea may also cloud up, impairing vision.
Treatment Options for Trachoma
Early stages of trachoma may be cleared up with antibiotics, usually oral medications. However, some doctors prefer a topical antibiotic eye ointment for the eye for several weeks. Surgery may be necessary for later stages of trachoma, depending on the damage to the eye.
Prevention is the best way to avoid trachoma altogether. Therefore, when you plan to travel to any areas where this disease is a problem, you will need to be very diligent in your hygiene practices. Always keep your face washed and discard towels or washcloths do not re-use them. Avoid flies through the use of insect repellent as they could transmit the infection.
Always stick to a clean water source for drinking and washing. Filter or chemically treat your water if bottled water is not available. In addition, stick to clean areas for bathroom breaks and avoid communal areas where flies tend to breed. Basically, being clean as possible and practicing proper hygiene is the best defense against trachoma.
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