What Is Trachoma?

Trachoma is, according to Trachoma.org, the world’s leading infectious cause of preventable blindness. It is a contagious infection of the eye’s conjunctiva (transparent, delicate lining of the eyeball and eye lids), caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, and spread by contact with an infected person or infected flies. Its presence scars the surface of the eye and eyelid. The infection may clear up on its own or with antibiotics but can easily return and further scar the surface of the eye and eyeball. As scarring increases, the eyelid becomes distorted and causes eyelashes to rub against and scratch the surface of the eyeball; scar tissue, the distorted eyelid, and ingrown eyelash cause impaired vision and blindness.

Trachoma is rare in the United States, but it affects millions of people around the world, many of them children.

How Is Trachoma Diagnosed?

Trachoma irritates the eyes and causes itching, swelling, and drainage.

An ophthalmologist can visually examine the inside of the eyelids and detect scarring. Any scratching of the cornea (transparent covering of the eyeball) will also be evident in an examination.

Are There Treatments for Trachoma?

Trachoma is most effectively treated in the earliest stages. It is treated with antibiotics, and scarring can be treated with surgery.

Eyesight lost from scratched and aggravated corneas is irreversible.

How Would You Describe the Eyesight of One with Trachoma and How Will My Child Function with It?

Your child’s vision can range from good to very poor, depending on the severity of scarring. Your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments should perform a functional vision assessment to determine how your child uses remaining vision and a learning media assessment to determine which senses your child primarily uses to get information from the environment. These assessments, along with an orientation and mobility assessment conducted by a mobility specialist, will give the team information needed to make specific recommendations for your child to best access learning material and his or her environment.

You may learn your child has difficulty recognizing faces and facial expressions, accessing information from a distance, identifying small images or letters on paper, or traveling safely. If this is the case, your child may benefit from travel training from the mobility specialist, increased contrast of the environment, increased contrast of print by using a CCTV or screen-magnification software, and increased room and task lighting. Your child may also benefit from utilizing assistive technology to more easily write, read, use the computer, and access information; and to utilize techniques and additional accommodations to perform activities with limited vision.

Your child may also be taught to complete tasks without the use of vision. Your child may be taught braille, use of screen-reading software to use the computer, and other techniques for performing life-skills and academic tasks from the teacher of students with visual impairments.

Furthermore, your child may have discomfort and poorer vision in bright light. Daytime travel, recreation, or work will be aided by the use of sunglasses and hats.

Resources for Families of Children with Trachoma