Ophthalmologists said the main symptoms of conjunctivitis are irritation in the eyes, swelling and discharge from the eyes.

Outbreaks of conjunctivitis are no longer seasonal in the city. Ophthalmologists say that cases of conjunctivitis are now seen throughout the year, and eye hospitals have been receiving a number of cases since December.

The Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Egmore, is receiving between five and 10 cases of conjunctivitis every day, according to its director and superintendent K. Namitha Bhuvaneshwari.

“The trend of the disease is changing. Earlier, we used to see cases of conjunctivitis only in June but it is no longer seasonal,” she said.

People travel quite frequently these days, and this is one of the ways the infection, which could be bacterial or viral spreads rapidly, said T.S. Surendran, vice chairman of Sankara Nethralaya.

“We have been seeing quite a few cases since December due to the chilly weather. Conjunctivitis is prevalent around the year and is sporadic in nature,” he said.

Conjunctivitis could be mild, moderate of very virulent depending on the immunity of a person. Sometimes, it can last for 10 days, but it normally settles down in three or four days, Dr. Surendran said.

Ophthalmologists said the main symptoms of conjunctivitis are irritation in the eyes, swelling and discharge from the eyes. If the cornea is involved, there could be watering from the eyes, at which point one must seek medical help immediately.

“The infection usually starts in one eye and spreads to the other. In 95 per cent of cases, it is bilateral. Generally, infected persons’ eyelids are stuck in the morning due to the discharge. If it is a bacterial infection, the bacteria multiples in the night due to warmth, leading to stickiness,” he explained.

Ophthalmologists stressed the need for personal hygiene and isolation of the affected person. “The infection spreads through direct contact. Frequent washing of the hands and face will help. Avoid sharing handkerchief and towels,” Dr. Bhuvaneshwari said.

For bacterial infections, antibiotics are prescribed, while non-steroid eye drops are given for viral infections. Doctors said over-the-counter medications should be avoided and patients should approach ophthalmologists for treatment.

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