Recent research has suggested that the process of self-epilation could be an acceptable alternative to eye surgery in patients with mild trachomatous trichiasis, one of the leading causes of blindness in developing countries.
The disease involves chronic conjunctivitis leading to scarring which causes the eyelids to turn inwards and the eyelashes to rub against the eye, causing pain, corneal damage and visual impairment.
However, a recent study published in the an issue of PLoS Medicine suggests that the process self-epilation, which safely pulls out the eyelashes touching patients" eye using clean forceps, is an acceptable alternative to surgery to preserving vision.
Furthermore, epilation may have additional advantages as surgical services are likely to remain unacceptable, inaccessible or prohibitively expensive for many people with the condition.
The findings were derived from a large trial involving 1,300 people in Ethiopia, which has the highest rates of trachoma in the world, led by Matthew Burton from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The experts concluded that, although surgery should be performed for trachomatous trichiasis whenever possible, epilation should be considered when surgery is not available or is declined by the patient.
A large majority of the approximately eight million people who have trachomatous trichiasis are not receiving surgical treatment and given the enormous backlog of untreated cases, surgery is unlikely to be available to very large numbers of people living with trichiasis for at least the medium term, the authors noted.
They commented: "Where surgery is available and patients are willing to accept it, surgery should be performed, as the disease tends to progress, albeit quite slowly.
"However, we suggest that for individuals with minor trichiasis (who represent about half of all those with trachomatous trichiasis) epilation should be considered where surgery is either not available or declined by the patient."
by Martin Burns