Trachoma affects the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye. It is spread by direct contact of eye, nose, and throat secretions from affected individuals, or contact with towels or washcloths that have come into contact with secretions. Children are most susceptible to the infection, with blinding effects of the disease often not known until adulthood.
Symptoms of trachoma are similar to those of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, including mild itching and irritation of the eye and discharge from the eye containing mucus or pus. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include light sensitivity, blurred vision and eye pain.
Blinding trachoma results from episodes of reinfection, causing the conjunctiva to be continuously inflamed. If reinfection does not occur, inflammation will gradually subside. However, if not treated properly with oral antibiotics, trachoma may worsen and cause blindness, due primarily to scarring of the cornea. In some cases, surgery becomes necessary to repair eyelid deformities.