Trachoma, with its complications, is still today the single most important cause of preventable blindness and loss of vision in the world, especially in the Mediterranean countries and in the Far East. Trachoma is transmitted by direct contact, possibly through contact with contaminated fingers or with contaminated articles such as towels or eye cosmetics. Flies may also be involved. Symptoms begin as a localized inflammation of the eye with redness, itching, tearing and a slight discharge. In later stages, scar tissue develops in the eye which can lead to visual problems and even blindness.
The burden of trachoma for a community is heavy: human suffering requiring treatment and assistance, and a severe handicap for education and work. Trachoma can be transmitted by direct or indirect contact. Overcrowding, lack of clean water, and unsanitary habits all contribute to its spread. Repeated exposure to infection, reinfections and relapses play a role in increasing the severity of the disease. This chronic infection is caused by micro-organisms Chlamydia which are very similar to bacteria but which, like viruses, are intracellular parasites. The clinical manifestations of trachoma range from a severe disease causing blindness, to a relatively mild condition which evolves towards spontaneous cure.
This is one of the most common diseases in the world, with an estimated 450 million people suffering from trachoma and at least 2 to 5 million blinded because of the disease. Trachoma is found mainly in northern Africa, the countries south of the Sahara, the Middle East and in most Asian and Latin American countries.