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Definition:

Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye.



Alternative Names:

Granular conjunctivitis; Egyptian ophthalmia; Conjunctivitis - granular



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Trachoma is caused by infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.

The condition occurs worldwide, mostly in rural settings in developing countries. It frequently affects children, although the effects of scarring may not be seen until later in life. While trachoma is rare in the United States, certain populations marked by poverty, crowded living conditions, or poor hygiene are at higher risk for this illness.

Trachoma is spread through direct contact with infected eye, nose, or throat secretions or by contact with contaminated objects, such as towels or clothes. Certain flies can also spread the bacteria.



Symptoms:

Symptoms begin 5 to 12 days after being exposed to the bacteria. The condition begins slowly as inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids (conjunctivitis , or "pink eye"), which if untreated may lead to scarring.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cloudy cornea
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Swelling of lymph nodes just in front of the ears
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Turned-in eyelashes


Signs and tests:

An eye exam may reveal scarring on the inside of the upper eye lid, redness of the white part of the eyes, and new blood vessel growth into the cornea.

Laboratory tests are needed to accurately identify and detect the bacteria and diagnose trachoma.



Treatment:

Antibiotics can prevent long-term complications if used early in the infection. Antibiotics include erythromycin and doxycycline. In certain cases, eyelid surgery may be needed to prevent long-term scarring, which can lead to blindness if not corrected.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Early treatment before the development of scarring and lid deformities has an excellent prognosis.



Complications:

If the eyelids are severely irritated, the eyelashes may turn in and rub against the cornea. This can cause eye ulcers, additional scars, vision loss, and possibly, blindness.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you or your child recently visited an area of the world where trachoma is common and there are symptoms of conjunctivitis.



Prevention:

Improved sanitation and not sharing items such as towels are important measures for limiting the spread of trachoma.



References:

Diseases Caused By Chlamydiae. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 339.




Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Phone: (603) 742-5252
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