Conjunctivitis is highly contagious but, with care and treatment, recovery is quick.
With the advent of the monsoon, the number of conjunctivitis cases also increases. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious. It spreads if a non-infected individual comes in contact with a person suffering from conjunctivitis or handles an object that has been touched by the patient. Wearing a pair of goggles helps as it stops the patient from rubbing his/her eyes.
Normally, conjunctivitis starts in one eye. By and large, it is bilateral. Anybody who has had conjunctivitis once develops immunity to it but only to that strain of infection. So there is always a possibility of re-infection. The most common symptoms are irritation, watering, discharge and redness; swelling of lids; sensitivity to light, red spots, swelling of glands. Ffever and common cold with throat pain are associated with certain subtypes of viral conjunctivitis. Sight is not usually affected unless an ulcer supervenes. Sometimes in viral conjunctivitis the patient may experience failing or blurred vision and develop intolerance to light.
Although conjunctivitis is not life-threatening, patients should not be allowed to attend school or office, as they may spread the infection. Self-medication should never be attempted. People should consult an eye specialist instead of buying off-the-counter medicine. The treatment includes use of antibiotics and eye drops prescribed by the doctor. Isolate personal belongings such as tissue, cosmetics, soap, towel, and pillow cover and use disposable tissue instead of handkerchief or towel to dab eyes. Do not rub eyes and wash your hands immediately if you do. Do not sleep on unaffected side
Our immune system helps in quick recovery. The infection lasts 3-5 days and antibiotic eye drops are given to relieve irritation. Unfortunately, steroid eye drops available off the counter are commonly used but this can easily lead to corneal ulcers and blindness and should never be used. Conjunctivitis is caused either by entero virus or adeno virus. While the adeno virus causes haemorrhagic conjunctivitis; the entero virus causes pharyngo conjuctival fever, which includes sore throat, fever and conjunctivitis.
The writer is a Mumbai-based senior consultant ophthalmologist.