Neglected tropical diseases: trachoma


Trachoma is the most common cause of blindness from infection in the world! Luckily, there are steps to prevent and treat the disease. In fact, some countries have gotten rid of the disease entirely, including Morocco, Gambia, and Ghana!


Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by bacteria, which can lead to blindness if untreated. It can spread easily through contact with liquids from the eyes, noses, and throats of infected people. Children are the most often infected, and also women who take care of children.


You can get the disease by directly touching liquids from the eyes, noses, and throats of infected people. You can also get the disease by touching towels, cloths, and other objects that have been in contact with those liquids from the eyes, noses, and throats of infected people. Flies that have touched those liquids can also pass the disease between people.


Often, the effects of trachoma are just some eye irritation and pain, causing the eye to produce liquids. Other effects include:

  • Swollen eyelids
  • Swelling in front of the ears
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Increased heart rate
  • Other problems with the eyes, ear, nose, and throat
  • eyelashes turning inwards, and rubbing against the eye

The disease becomes more serious when people get infected several times. The eyelids can become thick and develop scars, which can cause eyelashes to turn inwards and rub against the eye. This will cause a lot of pain, and over time it can lead to blindness.


There is an easy way to remember how to prevent and treat trachoma, called “SAFE.” Here are what the letters in “SAFE” stand for:

S = Surgery. For people whose eyelashes have turned inwards onto the eye, surgery is recommended as soon as possible. Having surgery by a doctor will decrease the chances or level of blindness.

A = Antibiotics. Antibiotics, a kind of medicine to kill bacteria, will help to treat trachoma. Azithromycin is the name of an antibiotic used to treat trachoma. Follow directions for how much and how often to take the medicine.:

F = Facial cleanliness. Children with flies or liquids from their noses and eyes on their faces are at the highest risk of becoming infected with trachoma, and passing the infection to others. It is very important to keep the faces of children and adults clean. Wash faces with clean water at least once a day, and wash hands often as well! Remember, trachoma can spread through towels and cloths that have come in contact with the faces of infected people. Make sure to clean towels well, with boiling water if possible, and to wash hands before and after cleaning the faces of yourself and others.

E = Environment. Since flies spread the disease, controlling flies will help prevent trachoma. Make sure to dispose of human, animal, and food waste in chosen areas away from living spaces and water sources. Cover toilets so that flies cannot enter. Store food that flies like in closed containers. Keep animals outside and away from living spaces. To keep flies from entering indoor spaces, cover doors and windows with screens or nets. Physical fly traps and chemicals that kill flies can also be used.

Good sanitation and hygiene will help to prevent trachoma, as well as many other harmful diseases! Good habits include keeping faces clean, and washing hands with soap before eating and cooking and after going to the toilet. With your help, the world can get rid of trachoma!



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