Beware of ‘pink eyes’
Eye specialists in the city have cautioned people over fast spread of highly contagious viral conjunctivitis (known as ‘pink eye’) and advised them against self-medication.
“Viral conjunctivitis usually occurs in places where people congregate in large numbers and spreads due to sharing of contaminated personal items and tear droplets,” Parthiban Purushothaman, Head, Department of Ophthalmology, K.A.P. Viswanatham Government Medical College, told The Hindu .
People could contract the virus by touching an article that contained traces of viral discharge, he said adding that it was a myth that the disease spreads through direct eye-to-eye contact.
“You cannot get it by simply looking at an infected person,” he said. “Even those who wear spectacles are not immune to it.”
The condition, once restricted to summer months, has become perennial especially in south India, said Vinitha Rachel Philip, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Kaveri Hospitals.
“This disease should not be confused with the ‘Madras Eye’ which is a bacterial infection that lasts for four to five days with red eye full of copious discharge,” he said. “The main symptoms of ‘pink eye,’ which lasts for two to three weeks, are swelling of eyelids, pain in and around the eye, pink colour to spots or patches of red, watery or blood stained discharge.” A mild sore throat and running nose could precede the disease followed by blurred vision in the second week.
“Viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting but spreads very fast,” said Dr. Tanuja Britto, Deputy Director, Joseph Eye Hospital.
“The best way to stop its spread is to isolate the patient,” she added. Parents have a responsibility to keep affected children at home until the infection heals, she said and urged the public to consult an ophthalmologist rather than the neighbourhood pharmacist for medication.
Joseph Eye Hospital has set up a separate out-patient department to deal with viral conjunctivitis. “On an average, we are seeing around 15-20 cases daily,” said Dr. Britto.
The doctors emphasised the importance of frequent hand-washing and use of sanitisers to reduce the chance of infection.
Washing the infected eye with water and swabbing it (single use) with cotton soaked in hot water will help, they said.
They warned against using eye drops that contain steroids because it could lead to cornea damage.
“While steroids treat the inflammation caused by conjunctivitis, they can prolong the disease and possibly damage the cornea,” said Dr. Purushothaman.
“Patients who experience blurred vision or extreme sensitivity to white light (after using such eye-drops) must immediately seek medical attention.”
“People should not share medication, especially eye-drops, even if it is for the same ailment,” advised Dr. Britto.