Trachoma is an eye infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The World Health Organization reports that trachoma affects approximately 84 million people worldwide, with more than 8 million suffering accompanying vision loss. Trachoma is uncommon in the United States. However, it is important to recognize the symptoms of Chlamydia trachomatis eye infections to ensure early treatment and prevent vision loss.
Chlamydia trachomatis infection causes redness of the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids. Both eyes are commonly affected due to spread from one eye to the other by rubbing or itching the eyes.
Eyelid swelling is a common symptom of Chlamydia trachomatis infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that children younger than age 10 are at greatest risk for trachoma. Accurate diagnosis of trachoma is important, as children in this age group frequently contract viral and other bacterial forms of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. Treatment of trachoma differs from the management of other types of conjunctivitis.
Eye Discharge and Crusting
Pus-like drainage is a characteristic symptom of Chlamydia trachomatis eye infection. Buildup and drying of eye discharge frequently causes crusts to accumulate in the eyelashes. Crust formation during sleep can cause the eyelids to stick together. The eyes may tear during the day due to irritation from the infection.
Scratching Sensations in the Eye
Irritation of the lining of the eyelids and eye surface caused by trachoma often leads to a scratching sensation. This typically feels as if something is in the eye.
Light sensitivity may be a symptom of Chlamydia trachomatis eye infection. This symptom is termed photophobia. Exposure to bright light may cause eye pain and tearing.
Bumps Inside the Eyelids
Small bumps develop on the inside of the eyelids approximately 7 to 10 days after the onset of trachoma symptoms. These bumps become more abundant and grow larger over the next several weeks if the infection is not treated. These bumps or follicles contain collections of white blood cells.
Lymph Node Swelling
Trachoma commonly causes swelling of the lymph nodes in front of the ear. This symptom typically does not occur with the more common viral forms of conjunctivitis.
When to Seek Medical Care
See your doctor right away if you think you may have contracted trachoma, particularly if you have recently traveled to an area where is disease is common. Trachoma is most commonly seen in rural areas in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America.