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Trachoma Sufferer Goes from Fear to Clear

  • Patients wait at a village health clinic in Mali for eye examinations to determine if they need surgery to help prevent blindness from trachoma. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience trichiasis, the painful, blinding condition caused by repeated trachoma infections. (Photos: The Carter Center)

  • Surgery is a vital component of the SAFE strategy to fight trachoma — interventions endorsed by the World Health Organization that includes Surgery, Antibiotics, Face and hand hygiene, and Environmental improvement through the construction of pit latrines. Above, a health worker in Mali prepares to perform simple eyelid surgery to relieve a trachoma patient’s pain and suffering. The Carter Center assists the Ministry of Health in training health workers to perform these surgeries, which can be performed in village health centers so patients do not have to travel far to receive the sight-saving surgery.

  • Since 1998, The Carter Center has been a pioneer in the fight against blinding trachoma. Today the Center works with ministries of health in six African countries to control trachoma, the world's leading cause of preventable blindness.

At 76, Tessougue Yietere had been in pain for years. She couldn't see well, she couldn't sleep, and she was scared.

Yietere lives in a village called Logo in Mali's Mopti region, where the Sahara Desert gives way to the Central African rainforest. For many years she had suffered from trachoma, a recurrent bacterial eye infection that can lead to blindness. The advanced stage of trachoma, called trachomatous trichiasis, is when the eyelashes turn inward, their sharp points raking across the eye with every blink.

"I felt pain, my eyes were watering all the time, and my lashes were jabbing the eye," Yietere said.

But Yietere didn't have to keep suffering. The Carter Center partners with the ministries of health in Mali and neighboring Niger, as well as four other nations, to provide medicine and train local health workers to perform a simple and safe procedure that reverses trichiasis.

At first Yietere feared letting anyone get near her badly scratched eyes, but the pain became too much, and she at last agreed to have the surgery.

It was a good decision, but it required a lot of courage and trust. A The Carter Center-trained health worker from her own area performed the procedure. After a few weeks, Yietere received a follow-up exam with joy.

"I am happy!" she said. "The pain disappeared. My lashes are not touching my eye. My vision is so much better."

Trachoma is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness. Of the 232 million people at risk for trachoma, most are children, and women are almost twice as likely as men to develop the advanced stage of trachoma that causes blindness. 

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