Trachoma is the world’s the leading cause of preventable blindness, and charitable organization, Sightsavers is working in some of the poorest countries to eliminate the disease.
There are nearly 200 million people worldwide suffering blindness due to trachoma, an eye infection that spreads because of ambiguous hygiene. In Ethiopia, out of 91 million people, around one million are blind and four million are visually impaired. To stop this painful disease, organizations like Sightsavers are working alongside the World Health Organization to use a strategy called the SAFE method. It stands for Surgery, Antibiotics Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement.
SAFE is divided into 4 phases: medical treatment of trichiasis, distribution of antibiotics to treat the infection, education for proper cleansing and hygiene of the face and body, improvement of the hygienic-environmental conditions.
What Is Trachoma?
The disease derives from the Chlamydia trachoma parasite, and is transmitted from eye to eye through contaminated hands or common objects like shared washcloths and towels. Insects like flies also play a pivotal role in the transmission of infections.
It has an incubation period that lasts 5 to 12 days, and initially only affects the inner shell of the eyes, but not other membranes. Over time, there is more inflammation, which penetrates the cornea.
Sightsavers points out that often patients do not initially seek medical help, not knowing they have a threatening disease. Patients seek help only when they have on-going discharge from the eyes or when they begin to lose their sight. Through more education, organizations like Sightsavers is helping to inform communities about trachoma, and how to prevent it.
Continuous treatment of trachoma include topical ointments and oral antibiotics. The success of trachoma treatment depends on early recognition of the disease, and on the timeliness of the beginning of treatment. Doctors in poor countries say it’s difficult to contain because the disease is very contagious, and when patients do not recognize any problems more vision complications develop.
Trachoma is spreading where the population’s health culture is low. Poor socio-economic conditions also contribute to the spread of the disease, but with preventive measures, organizations like Sightsavers say the disease can be contained.