Dr T S Sujatha
Conjunctivitis surge: Over the past 15 days, Mumbai has been grappling with a significant upsurge in cases of conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye. The city’s major government and private hospitals are reporting an alarming threefold increase in daily cases, surpassing the usual patient influx by a considerable margin. Medical experts have swiftly attributed this sudden surge to recent weather changes that have created an ideal environment for infectious microbes to thrive. The heavy rainfall and increased atmospheric moisture have further exacerbated the incidence of conjunctivitis and eye flu.
Conjunctivitis is impacting individuals of all age groups, with children making up to 40 per cent of the affected population.
Understanding Conjunctivitis: A Highly Contagious Infection
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Conjunctivitis is characterised by the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, protective membrane covering the white part of the eyeball. It can be triggered by viral or bacterial infections, and in some cases, it may also be caused by allergies. The infection spreads through direct contact with infected respiratory droplets, contaminated surfaces, or eye secretions of affected individuals, underscoring the necessity of avoiding the sharing of personal items and towels to minimise the risk of contracting the infection.
Differentiating Types of Conjunctivitis and Their Treatment
The condition manifests in three primary types: viral, bacterial, and allergic conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis typically presents with watery discharge during the day and sticky discharge in the morning, often resolving on its own within a week or two without the need for specific treatment. However, cold compressions and lubricating eye drops can help alleviate symptoms and provide relief.
On the other hand, bacterial conjunctivitis causes yellow or green sticky discharge throughout the day and is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Allergic conjunctivitis, induced by allergens such as pollen, leads to redness but is not contagious.
Recognising Symptoms and Seeking Prompt Treatment
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include redness and swelling of the eyelids, itchy eyes prone to rubbing, yellow or watery discharge, sticky eyelids, occasional blurring of vision, and, in some cases, fever in children. While conjunctivitis often resolves spontaneously, symptomatic treatment is vital to reduce discomfort and prevent its spread.
Preventing Conjunctivitis Spread and Taking Precautions
To manage the condition effectively, it is recommended to use eye wipes for gentle cleaning and refrain from rubbing the eyes. Wearing protective or dark goggles can prevent further irritation. It is crucial to avoid self-prescribing over-the-counter eye drops, especially those containing steroids, to prevent potential harm and complications. Consulting an ophthalmologist is essential, especially if experiencing blurring of vision or an increase in the severity of symptoms.
Prevention of conjunctivitis involves frequent handwashing with soap and using sanitizers, avoiding touching the eyes, not sharing personal items with an infected person, maintaining clean surroundings, and staying away from crowded places and swimming during the outbreak. A healthy balanced diet to bolster immunity also plays a crucial role in prevention.
Urging Heightened Awareness and Responsible Management
As Mumbai faces this surge in viral conjunctivitis cases, raising awareness about the infection’s transmission, symptoms, and preventive measures is paramount. Emphasising hygiene, seeking professional advice, and participating in public health awareness campaigns are essential in containing the spread of conjunctivitis and ensuring the well-being of all residents. Together, we can combat this eye infection and strive for a healthier, safer community in Mumbai.
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(The author is a general ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon at Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Kalyan branch)
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