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Trachoma is a highly contagious eye infection that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is a leading cause of preventable blindness. Trachoma is commonly found in areas with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water, making it a significant public health concern in developing countries. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, complications, and treatment options for trachoma, as well as provide valuable insights on how to prevent and manage this disease.

Eye Redness, Itching, and Tearing

One of the initial symptoms of trachoma is eye redness, which is often accompanied by itching and tearing. These symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and may lead to further complications if left untreated. The redness and itching are caused by the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye.

Discharge and Swollen Eyelids

As trachoma progresses, it can cause a thick discharge to accumulate in the eyes. This discharge is often sticky and can cause the eyelids to stick together, especially after sleep. Additionally, trachoma can lead to swollen eyelids, making it difficult to open or close the eyes properly. These symptoms can significantly impact a person’s daily activities and overall quality of life.

Blurred Vision and Sensitivity to Light

As the infection worsens, trachoma can cause blurred vision, making it challenging to see clearly. This can affect a person’s ability to perform tasks that require visual acuity, such as reading or driving. Furthermore, trachoma can make the eyes highly sensitive to light, causing discomfort and further impairing vision.

Corneal Scarring and Blindness

If left untreated, trachoma can lead to corneal scarring, which is a major cause of blindness in affected individuals. The scarring occurs due to repeated episodes of inflammation and can result in a loss of transparency in the cornea, the clear front part of the eye. This can ultimately lead to irreversible vision loss and blindness.

Treatment and Prevention

Fortunately, trachoma can be treated and prevented through various measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a comprehensive approach known as SAFE, which stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement.


In cases where trachoma has caused severe scarring and vision loss, surgery may be necessary to correct the damage. This can involve procedures such as corneal transplantation or eyelid surgery to improve eyelid function. However, it is important to note that surgery is not a cure for trachoma and should be considered as a last resort.


Antibiotics play a crucial role in treating trachoma by eliminating the bacterial infection. The most commonly used antibiotic for trachoma is azithromycin, which can be administered orally or topically as an ointment. Mass drug administration programs have been successful in reducing the prevalence of trachoma in many affected communities.

Facial Cleanliness

Practicing good facial hygiene is essential in preventing the spread of trachoma. This includes regularly washing the face and hands with clean water and soap. Additionally, individuals should avoid sharing towels or other personal items that may come into contact with the eyes.

Environmental Improvement

Improving sanitation and access to clean water is crucial in preventing trachoma. This can be achieved through the construction of latrines, the promotion of proper waste disposal, and the provision of clean water sources. These measures help reduce the transmission of the bacteria responsible for trachoma.


Trachoma is a preventable and treatable eye infection that can cause severe complications if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking early medical intervention is crucial in preventing vision loss and blindness. By implementing the SAFE strategy and promoting good hygiene practices, we can work towards eliminating trachoma and improving the overall eye health of communities worldwide.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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