Trachoma: Five facts you need to know

Human beings blink on average 16 times a minute – that’s 15,360 times a day.

Every blink is unbearably painful for someone with trachoma, and each blink takes them closer to blindness. An ancient disease that can lead to permanent blindness, trachoma doesn’t just destroy sight – but causes such agony that some sufferers pluck out their own eyelashes with homemade tweezers. This provides relief from the pain of trachoma – but it’s a temporary fix.

Many people don't even know what this agonising disease is, so here are five facts you need to know. 

1. Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world today
As many as 229 million people worldwide live in areas where they are at risk of developing trachoma.

Eighty per cent of these people live in just 14 'high burden' countries, 13 of which are in Africa (Pakistan is the other country). These 14 countries also have 80% of the backlog of people who require surgery to treat trichiasis – the advanced stage of trachoma where the eyelids turn inwards and the eyelashes rub the cornea, causing scarring and blindness.

2. Trachoma causes severe pain and agony
Trachoma is a chronic inflammation of the eye lining and eyelids, which become rough and scarred if left untreated. The eye cannot then lubricate, protect or nourish the cornea – which also becomes inflamed, scarred and prone to other infections.

With the eyes already deeply scratched and sore, as trachoma advances the inner eyelids become so scarred they turn in so the eyelashes injure the cornea even further (trichiasis). It’s a constant, incredibly painful irritation: with their eyes already throbbing, itching and hurting – every blink increases the pain and damage for sufferers even further.

3. Blindness caused by trachoma is irreversible
In later stage trachoma, the continual scratching and scarring of the eye, caused by inflammation and turning inwards, means that the already damaged cornea gets rapidly worse.

If trachoma is left untreated, the built up scarring and cloudiness leads to blindness – which is impossible to reverse as the eyes been permanently damaged.

4. In one region of Ethiopia alone 155,000 people need urgent surgery
Right now, more than 76 million people in Ethiopia are at risk of contracting trachoma.

In one region alone, Oromia, more than 155,000 people are in desperate need of surgery – to stop their trachoma advancing further, destroying their sight permanently.

5. Trachoma is entirely preventable and treatable
There is no need for anyone to suffer from this excruciating, debilitating eye disease. There are such simple solutions that can end the pain like:
  • a simple 20 minute procedure 
  • free antibiotics to stop early stage trachoma
  • access to clean water, which can stop trachoma from spreading. 
Luckily, The Foundation has teams on the ground fighting trachoma. Our surgeons, nurses and health workers are are getting the antibiotics, the training and the surgery to those who need it most.

We know what to do. We just need your help. Donate now to The Foundation. 
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