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Conjunctivitis Outbreak: Here’s How To Prevent Getting A Pink Eye During Monsoon

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is the most common type of eye infection. Several doctors have cautioned that it is ‘highly contagious’ and proper hygiene behaviour needs to be maintained to check its spread

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New Delhi: Cases of conjunctivitis and other eye infections are on the rise in India, especially in Delhi, with many doctors cautioning that it is ‘highly contagious’ and proper hygiene behaviour needs to be maintained to check its spread. Dr Aarti Nangia, senior consultant, ophthalmology at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj here, told news agency Press Trust of India that there has been an ‘increase’ in cases of eye infections and conjunctivitis reported in Delhi in the last few weeks.

Dr Suresh Kumar, Medical Director of Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital, said that in his hospital, he has seen a marginal increase in conjunctivitis cases with patients coming with complaints of burning sensation in eyes.

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In conversation with Dettol-Banega Swasth India, Dr. Dr. Kamal B Kapur, eye specialist, Director and Co-Founder of Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals, Delhi detailed how one gets conjunctivitis, what symptoms one sees and preventive measures individuals can take into account to protect themselves.

Conjunctivitis is the swelling of the outer lettering of the eye, which happens usually in the rainy season. It could happen either due to a bacterial infection, viral infection, and in some cases, an allergic infection, he added.

In medical terms, when we add the suffix ‘itis’, it indicates a condition involving inflammation, infection or swelling. So, conjunctiva is the layer of the eye, which is covering the external part of the eye. When that gets swollen up, it’s called conjunctivitis, Dr Kapur described.

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Causes of Conjunctivitis

Dr. Kapur said that conjunctivitis is primarily caused by:

  • Infections that one gets through contact, not by looking at someone’s eye, which is a huge myth in India, Dr Kapur said.
  • Transmission by contact with ocular or upper respiratory tract discharge of people who have the infection, fomites, medical equipment or shared cosmetics
  • Healthy individuals coming in contact with an object touched by an infected person. For example, if a healthy person touches a mobile phone that was previously used by the infected person, who then ends up touching his/her face or eye, the individual will definitely be infected. That’s how you get it. So, conjunctivitis is a contagious disease, Dr Kapur said.
  • Common bacteria including pseudomonas and corynebacterium, among others

Prevalence of Conjunctivitis In Monsoon

Dr Kapur explained that conjunctivitis is most prevalent in the rainy/monsoon season, due to overflowing and flooding of the water systems (tap water) with contaminated water. So, when people wash their faces with the festered water, there are high chances of infecting the eyes, he added. Apart from this, flooding of the streets and roads also leads to infection. The vehicles on the road wip up thin drops of water called aerosoling, which are suspended water droplets.

The suspended water droplets are floating in the air and you’re walking on the road, you may not actually be splashed in your face with the car going by, but the effect of the dirty water being aerosolized can cause the infection. Therefore, one gets conjunctivitis either by coming in contact with an infected person or a material, the expert said.

The humid weather offers a favourable environment for bacteria and viruses to grow and spread, contributing to increased cases of highly contagious eye infection, Dr. Kapur said.

During rainy seasons, the temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold. So, the middle level temperature is ideally required for these situations where the bacteria get a good amount of moisture in the air to survive in the air, he added.

He said that the combination of increased humidity and warmer temperatures during the rainy season produces ideal circumstances for the rapid reproduction of bacteria and viruses.

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Dr. Kapur said that a person may experience:

  • Swelling of the white part of the eye, also called as the ‘Pink Eye’ or ‘Red Eye’
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Congested eyelids
  • Severe symptoms include white discharge from the eye and increased watering, in case of severe infected condition
  • Blurring of vision, which happens when the infect is already exaggerated and is now affecting the visual system

Dr. Kapur detailed that the symptoms may last from days to weeks, depending on the bacteria causing it, a person’s immunity and the type of medicine being used.

Treatment And Prevention

Dr. Kapur listed down some of the treatments available and the preventive measures one can adhere to:

  • Conjunctivitis can be treated with simple usage of eye drops if early signs are recognised.
  • Individuals must consult only eye specialists or ophthalmologists rather than self-medicating
  • Putting eye drops in the required amount is significant as it affects the recovery process. Hence, frequent consultation with the doctor is suggested
  • Avoid use of steroids and non-prescribed medicines provided by a pharmacist or suggested by a previously infected person, as the type of infection can vary from person to person. “Steroids aggravate infections and, in some cases, lead to blindness,” Dr. Kapur highlighted.
  • Individuals can also wear glasses while walking on the road to prevent contracting aerosolic infection.
  • Glasses should also be worn by infected people, as it would help reduce this sensitivity, making it easier for the person to go outside or be in bright environments without feeling too much discomfort.
  • Avoid touching their eyes and sanitise hands frequently during the day
  • Avoid sharing towels, handkerchiefs, or other personal items with others, as this can spread infections from one person to another
  • Use filtered water instead of tap water to splash the eyes
  • An infected individual must wash the eyes for four to five times to clear the discharge

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