New York Eye and Ear Infirmary
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What is trachoma?

Trachoma is an eye disease caused by an inflammatory reaction to Chlamydia trachomatis - a microorganism resembling both bacteria and viruses. As a result of repeated infections, the inside of the eyelids become so severely scarred, that the eyelid turns inward causing the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball. This condition can be quite painful and can lead to blindness if untreated. In fact, trachoma is the leading cause of blindness in the world.

Trachoma is endemic in many parts of Africa, the Middle East and poor third-world countries. It is prevalent in areas of overcrowding and poverty - particularly where clean water and health care is not readily available.

What causes trachoma?

Trachoma is caused by the microorganism chlamydia trachomatis. It spreads through contact with eye discharge from towels, handkerchiefs, fingers, etc. and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. It is easily prevented when people have water to wash their faces everyday and fly populations found among animals are kept under control.

How is trachoma treated?

Trachoma can be easily treated with antibiotic eye ointment. Unfortunately, antibiotic ointments are expensive and often not available in countries that are in need of it most. If the eyelids become scarred, they can be repaired surgically.

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