Background: Trachoma is a significant public health problem in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The prevalence of follicular trachoma in the region has been well documented and control of active trachoma is well established. In contrast, trichiasis prevalence in recent years is less well documented. This study aimed to determine trichiasis prevalence in the Kimberley population and to document an appropriate intervention.
Methods: A collaborative programme was established involving the Kimberley Public Health Unit, Kimberley Aged Care Services and the visiting ophthalmology service. After training, medical students screened the aged-care population for trichiasis and the aged-care services staff were educated about identification and referral procedures for patients with trichiasis. The Kimberley Public Health Unit was responsible for ensuring specialist assessment, and correction, of trichiasis and appropriate post-treatment follow up.
Results: A total of 597 Kimberley Aboriginal people aged 50 years or more were screened for trichiasis, representing 42% of that age group. Trichiasis was suspected in 40 people. Of the 28 people with suspected trichiasis who underwent ophthalmological assessment, 17 were found to have trachomatous trichiasis. The observed prevalence of trachomatous trichiasis was 2.8%. The trichiasis screening programme has been adopted by most aged-care organizations in the Kimberley.
Conclusions: The results show that trichiasis continues to affect elderly Aboriginal people, especially those from Halls Creek Shire. Health professionals and aged-care workers should be alert to the possibility of this preventable cause of blindness and work collaboratively to ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment.