Trachoma, a chronic contagious viral disease marked by inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye and the formation of scar tissue, causes approximately 3.6 percent of blindness across the globe, experts disclosed.

According to WHO statistics, there are about 8 million people visually impaired irreversibly by trachoma and over 84 million cases of active disease are in need of treatment throughout the world.

However, Sialkot DHO Dr Javed Warraich told The Nation that though figures of Trachoma blindness are alarming yet it is covered under the chapter of preventive healthcare in Pakistan and no specific or special campaign is designed to fight the disease.

Likewise, DG Health Punjab Dr Zahid Parvez said that the government was doing limited work but it is true that an extensive programme has not been launched on a grassroots level. The World Health Organization under its SAFE strategy has put trachoma on its priority chart and looks forward for its eradication from the earth till 2020 but the Pakistanis are not taking this fatal disease as a challenge, lamented an eye specialist during an eye camp set up here.

Dr Irfan Muslim, Registrar Eye Unit II of Mayo Hospital said, “After cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy and childhood blindness, trachoma is the 7th leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. The disease occurs in developing countries with poor sanitation and crowded conditions and is caused by ocular infection through bacteria called Chlamydia Trachomatis. It is highly contagious but can be treated with antibiotics and steps can be taken to avoid infection or prevent transmission to reduce the risk of blindness in future.”

The infection causes roughening in the inner surface of eyelids, he said and added that it can lead to pain in the eyes, breakdown of the outer surface or cornea of the eyes possibly in to blindness. This bacterium Chlamydia Trachomatis can spread both by direct and indirect contact with an affected person’s eyes or nose. Indirect contact includes via clothing or flies that have come into contact with an affected person.

“This infection develops in a period of years before scarring cornea. The eyelids become so great that they get misdirected pointing towards cornea and begin to rub against the eye causing corneal haze.” He added, “The children spread this disease more often than adults. More, poor sanitation, crowded living conditions, and unclean water and toilets also spread the disease.”

“There are a large number of infected or affected people with this disease therefore; great effort is needed for its prevention. It includes improving access to clean water and decreasing the number of infected people through treatment with antibiotics. It may include treating all patients one at the same time,” he suggested.

According to a report, in some areas, infections may be present in 60-90 percent of children. Most commonly it affects women than men only because of their close contact with the children. It has so far affected 2.2 million people of which 1.2 million became completely blind. Nowadays, it commonly occurs in 53 countries of Africa, Asia, Central and South America with more than 230 million people at risk all the time.