DESCRIPTION: A form of bilateral keratoconjunctivitis which causes corneal scarring; at its onset, it resembles conjunctivitis with symptoms of tearing, photophobia, pain, swelling of the eyelids, and superior keratitis; as it passes through four stages, the conjunctival tissues become follicular, heal, and finally scar. Lacrimal glands and ducts are often affected as well; the upper lid may turn inward and the lashes then abrade the cornea; corneal ulceration results, becomes infected, and ultimately scars. When scarring is extensive, blindness results. The disease is spread by contact; flies and gnats may also transmit it.
TREATMENT: If treated early (with antibiotics, usually tetracycline drugs or sulfonamides), the prognosis is excellent. Untreated, it can cause blindness.
IMPLICATIONS: This disease is one the earliest recorded eye diseases; it was identified as early as the 27th century B.C. It is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and afflicts over 400 million people (primarily in underdeveloped countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia). It is preventable with adequate diet, proper sanitation, and education. It is rare in the United States.
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