After every spell of rain, eye clinics and hospitals in the city have seen a surge in the number of persons reporting viral conjunctivitis, popularly known as ‘Madras Eye' here. Though the number of cases has come down now, it is likely to increase when it rains again, according to doctors. Ophthalmologists say inattention to hygiene and refusal to get timely medical attention have resulted in the spread of the infection.
Last week the Government Eye Hospital treated at least 15 patients a day through the week for the infection. In September the hospital received 30 to 40 patients every day, says its director K. Vasantha. “Usually the infection will occur as a short epidemic and disappear after a few months only to recur after a few years. But what started about three or four years ago is still continuing as people are taking conjunctivitis lightly. They use whatever medicine is available and do not isolate themselves,” she says.
“Those administering drops to the patient must wash their hands with soap and water, especially before touching the eye,” Dr. Vasantha adds.
Persons with conjunctivitis must isolate themselves to avoid spreading it to others. Using a clean handkerchief and not sharing one's towel or handkerchief with the rest of family is important. “Use antibiotic eye drops prescribed by the doctor and wash the face and the eye with clean water about five to six times a day,” Amar Agarwal of Dr. Agarwal's Eye Hospital tells patients.
Dr. Agarwal also suggests applying a hot, dry handkerchief over the eyelids. In the case of children, parents must ensure that the heat is not unbearable for the child. If treated properly, conjunctivitis is a self-limiting disease. Otherwise it could lead to complications, he adds.
Clothes and articles used by the infected person should be washed in hot water using disinfectants, the doctors say.
Ophthalmologists advise against buying medicines over the counter. They also warn of ‘red eye' syndrome which could be due to glaucoma or iridocyclitis, requiring emergency treatment.
Doctors advise that disinfecting articles used by patients would protect other members from the infection. Eye hospitals are geared for the spurt in the number of infections expected after the next spell of rain, the doctors say.