Keep yourself safe from viral conjunctivitis

Characteristics of viral conjunctivitis include redness, blood vessel engorgement, ocular discharge, pain, photophobia, and pseudomembranes…writes Dr.Hilda Nixon, Cornea specialist& Cornea Surgeon-Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly

Dr.Hilda Nixon
Cornea specialist& Cornea Surgeon
Little Flower Hospital

Every year ¸ there is rise in cases of conjunctivitis when the weather changes and a new season starts. Unfortunately, this year 2023, the spike in viral conjunctivitis in Kerala is much higher than expected, hence creating a panic among general public. In the last 2 weeks, cases of conjunctivitis have surged by almost three-fold. This is quite a concern to health workers too. In Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly, we are witnessing 15-20 cases daily, as compared to two to three in the previous weeks. This sudden spike is quite surprising.

We conducted an outbreak investigation and we doctors attribute it to the change in weather which provides a suitable environment for the microbes to thrive. Other noticeable fact is that last 2 years there was only mild surge in cases of conjunctivitis reported, probably “COVID -19 break the chain “protocol has been a great boon in prevention of spread of viral conjunctivitis .As more people stop following the COVID-19 protocol of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distance, eye hospitals in the Kerala are reporting an increase in cases of conjunctivitis, especially among school children. It is mostly common among children as they are unaware about maintaining hygiene while suffering from this condition. The disease eventually gets transmitted to other family members at home.

Conjunctivitis, also referred to as Pink Eye, is an extremely contagious eye inflammation commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection or an allergic reaction. Viral conjunctivitis is Commonly known as ‘Madras Eye’. The most common cause of viral conjunctivitis is adenoviruses. This is due to an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. Infected eyes become red and swollen, with fluid discharge. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Most viruses that cause conjunctivitis spread through hand-to-eye contact by hands or objects that are contaminated with the infectious virus. Affects patients of all ages and socioeconomic class. People often confuse conjunctivitis with normal allergic eye infection.

Characteristics of viral conjunctivitis include redness, blood vessel engorgement, ocular discharge, pain, photophobia, and pseudomembranes. Frequently associated infections caused by the adenovirus include upper respiratory tract infections, and diarrhoea in children. This year the virus appears to be more virulent as we have the patients are with tomato-red eyes and associated pain. This is due to some amount of blood under the conjunctiva of the eye.

Complications in kids hospitalised with Covid: Lancet.(Photo:pixabay.coM)

• We advise the public to wash their hands frequently, as it helps them to stay safe from infection, and to reduce the risk of spreading it if they are infected. • Sharing makeup and wearing contact lenses that are not your own or are improperly cleaned can also cause conjunctivitis. • Advised to keep using separate towels and not to share clothing. • Wear sunglasses to avoid glare and decrease accidental eye contact with your fingers. • Avoid the use of common swimming pool. • Avoiding or delaying treatment could aggravate the condition, hence affected individual should immediately consult here by eye hospital. Most importantly, avoid taking over-the-counter drops. We have seen that in many cases patients self-medicate, and finally they come to us with added complications and may lead to loss of vision. Hence, patients should seek doctor’s opinion. • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes • Hygiene protocols easing up, should not be encouraged. There is a definitive economic and societal impact due to the costs of visits to the hospitals, treatment, and time lost from work or school. So take utmost care of the eyes.

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