Chennai: “The incidence of conjunctivitis – popularly known as Madras Eye is rising rapidly, especially among children, in Chennai, following the onset of the winter season. Over 20 per cent of our walk-in patients in the recent weeks are diagnosed with conjunctivitis,” said Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospitals senior eye specialist, Dr S Soundari.
In a press release, she said, “while conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, it can develop into a more serious problem, if not diagnosed correctly and treated promptly. Hence, people should avoid self-medication and consult an eye specialist for correct diagnosis.”
Soundari said the disease is usually a viral or bacterial infection of the conjunctiva – the thin, protective membrane that covers the surface of the eyeball. But not all conjunctivitis are infectious. Allergic conjunctivitis results from the allergy to pollen or dust.
The common symptoms of conjunctivitis are irritation, watering, red eyes, sticky discharge, and sensitivity to light. But when the cornea – the layer on the black part of the eye – is infected, it can result in blurred vision. In rare cases, blood can start dripping from the swollen eyes, a condition known as acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis.
She said that conjunctivitis is a highly contagious infection. It can easily spread from one person to another by personal belongings like towels, pillow covers, and makeup items. Hence isolation of patients is important. Infected patients should only use paper napkins to wipe out any discharge from their eyes, and dispose the napkins immediately. They should discard old contact lenses and start using the new ones only after consulting the doctors.
Patients should not use regular, reusable handkerchiefs. They should wash their hands frequently, and should not let others use their personal belongings to prevent the contagion, she said.
Since conjunctivitis spreads rapidly in closed environments like schools and offices, people should not venture out until the watery discharge is completely stopped, she added.