Trachoma, a form of eye infection, is a common cause of blindness. Blindness develops because of repeated eye infections. However, trachoma is preventable. Both the individual and the community can take steps to prevent trachoma.
HOW CAN A SIMPLE EYE INFECTION IN CHILDREN LEAD TO BLINDNESS IN ADULTS?
If an eye infection in the child is not treated, infections may occur regularly. Repeated infections lead to the surface of the eye becoming scarred. This scarring causes the inside of the eyelid to change shape, so that some of the eyelashes grow in the wrong direction – inwards instead of outwards. The inward-growing eyelashes rub on the eye, damaging it and making the eye surface turn from clear to opaque. Imagine a pebble scratching on a pane of glass.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TRACHOMA?
- Red eyes
- Runny eyes
- Irritation in the eyes
- Flies on the eyes
- Runny nose
More advanced symptoms:
- Permanent feeling of eye irritation – as if you have dust or insects in your eyes constantly.
HOW IS TRACHOMA TREATED?
- Treating trachoma infection in children: The symptoms of trachoma infection in children are: red eyes, runny eyes, irritation in the eyes, flies on the eyes, runny nose.
- Wash face with clean water several times a day. Only a small quantity of water is needed.
- Antibiotic treatment to cure the infection. This may be an ointment, tablets, or syrup. It is important that you obtain this from a qualified health professional, and take the medicine for as long as is recommended.
- Treating trachoma in the later stages, when the lashes are distorted and the patient experiences constant eye irritation.
- There is a cheap, minor surgical operation, which can be performed at village level, to reverse the distortion of the lashes. This is essential to avoid blindness.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT TRACHOMA?
Blindness due to trachoma is preventable. An individual can take steps to prevent themselves and their family from this disease.
It is easier to prevent trachoma infection than to treat it.
First, it is important to understand how a person may become infected with trachoma. Trachoma is generally transmitted through contact with the liquid that runs from an infected person’s eyes. This liquid contains the bugs that cause trachoma.
There are three common ways that trachoma infection is spread from one person to another.
- From child to child, when playing
- From child to mother, for example when the mother cleans the face of the child with her veil or the tail of her dress
- Flies are attracted by the eye secretions. The flies land on the faces of children, and can pass the infection from one child to another.
To prevent trachoma, it is important to practice good personal hygiene, and to try and reduce the number of flies that are around the home. Facial hygiene is particularly important.
It is very important to wash the hands of children and faces often. Only a small amount of water is needed. If a child has a runny nose or eyes, you must clean their face to prevent flies being attracted. Always wash your hands after cleaning a child’s face. There are other times when it is important to wash hands – such as before and after eating, and after having a bowel movement.
Children with clean hands and faces are at much lower risk of trachoma infection.
Keeping the house clean will also stop flies being attracted. Garbage and fresh defecation (stool) will attract flies – therefore to protect yourself from trachoma you can avoid leaving household rubbish around, and also always use a latrine. Human defecation is very attractive to flies – therefore to prevent disease always use a latrine when you need to go to the toilet.
- Trachoma is a common but preventable cause of blindness
- Repeated eye infections in a child cause scarring, and eventually blindness in the adult
- The signs of trachoma infection in a child are red and runny eyes or nose, or flies on the eyes. Wash the face with a small amount of clean water several times a day, and seek antibiotic treatment from your health provider
- In the later stages, trachoma causes permanent eye irritation. At this stage, a simple, minor operation is essential to prevent blindness
- To prevent trachoma infection:
- Wash children’s faces and hands often
- Always use a latrine to go to the toilet, and avoid leaving garbage around the house
- If a child has a runny nose or eyes, be careful to wash the liquid from their face several times a day. Go to the health centre to get antibiotic treatment for the infection. It is important to always take antibiotics for as long as is recommended, to prevent resistance.
This article is part of Right for Education’s Eye Health Week.