CHENNAI: The incidence of conjunctivitis popularly known as ‘Madras Eye’is rising rapidly, especially among children, in Chennai. Every year, cases of conjunctivitis show a mild surge as the monsoon season comes to a close, this year the prolonged rainfall in the city has further increased the caseload. Over 20% of our walk-in patients in the recent weeks are diagnosed with conjunctivitis,” said Dr Kala Devi R, senior ophthalmologist and zonal head Clinical Services, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Chennai.
Madras Eye is a common condition that spreads rapidly from one person to another. It is often caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It spreads through secretions from the eye. Thus, if a person touches his/her eye, he/she can pass on the infective virus or bacteria to another person or object that comes in contact with the secretion.
The common symptoms of conjunctivitis are irritation, watering, red eyes, sticky discharge, and sensitivity to light. But when the cornea is infected, it can result in blurred vision. The contagious viral infection, which causes swelling and inflammation among some patients, takes longer to heal.
Though conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, it can develop into a more serious problem, if not diagnosed correctly and treated promptly. Many come to the doctor after trying antibiotics from the pharmacy. Patients should avoid self-medication, over-the-counter eye drops and use prescribed antibiotics, eye drops by an eye specialist after correct diagnosis.
Nearly 90% of all conjunctivitis is caused by adenovirus. The affected eye is red, itchy, irritated, and gritty, and produces a watery discharge similar to tears. Dr Kala added that conjunctivitis is a highly contagious infection. It can easily spread from one person to another through 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 of 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.
Since conjunctivitis spreads rapidly in closed environments like schools and offices, people should not venture out until the watery discharge has completely stopped.