Health Library

Trachoma
     
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Trachoma

Granular conjunctivitis; Egyptian ophthalmia; Conjunctivitis - granular; Conjunctivitis - chlamydia

 

Trachoma is an infection of the eye caused by bacteria called chlamydia.

Causes

 

Trachoma is caused by infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.

The condition occurs around the world. It is most often seen in rural areas of developing countries. Children are often affected. However, the scarring caused by the infection may not be noticed until later in life. The condition is rare in the United States. However, it is more likely to occur in crowded or unclean living conditions.

Trachoma is spread through direct contact with infected eye, nose, or throat fluids. It can also be passed 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. It first appears as inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids (conjunctivitis, or "pink eye"). Untreated, this 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

 

Exams and Tests

 

The health care provider will do an eye exam to look for 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.

Lab tests are needed to identify the bacteria and make an accurate diagnosis.

 

Treatment

 

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

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Outcomes are very good if treatment is started early before scarring and changes to the eyelids develop.

 

Possible Complications

 

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

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if you or your child recently visited an area where trachoma is common and you notice symptoms of conjunctivitis.

 

Prevention

 

Spread of the infection can be limited by washing your hands and face often, keeping clothes clean, and not sharing items such as towels.

 

 

References

Batteiger BE, Tan M. Chlamydia trachomatis (trachoma and urogenital infections). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 180.

Bhatt A. Ocular infections. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 61.

Hammerschlag MR. Chlamydia trachomatis. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 253.

Ramadhani AM, Derrick T, Macleod D, et al. Ocular immune responses, chlamydia trachomatis infection and clinical signs of trachoma before and after azithromycin mass drug administration in a treatment naïve trachoma-endemic Tanzanian community. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2019;13(7):e0007559. PMID: 31306419 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31306419/.

Rubenstein JB, Spektor T. Conjunctivitis: infectious and noninfectious. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.6.

BACK TO TOPText only

 
  • Eye

    Eye

    illustration

    • Eye

      Eye

      illustration

    Tests for Trachoma

     
       

      Review Date: 8/18/2020

      Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
      adam.com