Conjunctivitis cases surge after heavy rains: What precautions should we take to prevent redness, blurry vision and eye discomfort?

During the past few weeks of heavy rainfall in Delhi and neighboring areas, there has been a notable increase in cases of conjunctivitis and eye flu. Doctors in the city attribute this surge to the unusual showers, flooding, and heightened moisture in the atmosphere, which have exacerbated the annual occurrence of these eye infections.

Dr. Soveeta Rath, a specialist in Pediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismus, and Neuro Ophthalmology at Dr. Shroff\’s Charity Eye Hospital, Daryaganj, reports that the number of cases has risen by approximately 50 to 60 percent. Most affected individuals are children, with nearly every third child exhibiting symptoms of red eyes or conjunctivitis. In the previous week alone, the hospital\’s outpatient department treated 30 children with conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva—the protective membrane covering the white part of the eyeball. It is commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections and is highly contagious. The infection can spread through direct contact, such as touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the eyes. Therefore, it is important not to share towels or personal items when afflicted with conjunctivitis. Wearing unclean or improperly fitting contact lenses can also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.

The symptoms of conjunctivitis include pain, redness, blurred vision, excessive watering of the eyes, stickiness of the eyelids, fluid discharge, and crusting. There are different types of conjunctivitis:

1. Viral Conjunctivitis: Characterized by watery discharge during the day and sticky discharge in the morning. It often resolves on its own within a week or two, and warm compresses can help alleviate the discomfort.

2. Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Usually causes yellow or green sticky discharge throughout the day, along with itching and swollen eyelids. This type is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.

3. Allergic Conjunctivitis: Affects both eyes and is triggered by an allergic reaction, such as to pollen. It results in red eyes but is not contagious.

Conjunctivitis can affect people of all ages, but it tends to be more prevalent in children and young adults who are in close proximity to one another at schools and workplaces. Additionally, those who are exposed to infected individuals, allergens, or wear contact lenses are at higher risk of contracting the infection.

For contact lens wearers, proper daily cleaning of lenses is essential to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. If an infection occurs, it is crucial to refrain from wearing lenses until cleared by an ophthalmologist, as it can lead to corneal ulcers and potential blindness.

To prevent the spread of conjunctivitis, regular hand-washing and avoiding touching the face and eyes are recommended. People living with diabetes should take extra precautions due to their increased susceptibility to infections.

Treatment for conjunctivitis is mainly focused on symptomatic relief. Cold compresses (for bacterial infections) and over-the-counter artificial tears can help alleviate inflammation and dryness. However, it is crucial to consult an ophthalmologist before using any over-the-counter medications, as they can potentially worsen the condition. Steroid eye drops should never be used without a doctor\’s prescription.

Differentiating conjunctivitis from other eye infections, such as lid infections, corneal ulcers, and endophthalmitis, is important. While conjunctivitis is contagious, other eye infections are not. Corneal infections and endophthalmitis are more severe and require immediate medical attention.

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