Prior to #Eid holidays I noticed an upsurge of patients presenting with “Red Eyes”. During the holidays, I have been getting phone calls about red/ pink eyes. It seems the #conjunctivitis (آشوب چشم) epidemic is back!
What is it?
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common cause of an acute red eye. A self-limited infection, it usually resolves within a week and leaves no permanent damage. It spreads by contact; contagiousness varies with the viral species. Preschoolers and school-age children get it most often because of crowding and lack of good hand washing and hygiene.
Caused most often by adenovirus, it cannot be treated effectively with antimicrobial agents. Instead, management is directed at scrupulous hygiene to prevent spread, which is most likely when discharge is present. Wearing dark glasses, a common practice in #Karachi, does not prevent the spread of the virus.
How does it present?
The patient reports a swollen, tight, warm, uncomfortable feeling in the affected eye and a watery/mucoid discharge. Vision is usually normal unless mucus gets on the cornea, which can be blinked away. One or both eyes may be involved. There may be an ongoing or preceding upper respiratory infection or a history of recent exposure to someone with a red eye.
The conjunctiva is diffusely injected. The eyelids are swollen. The eye is dripping with a watery and mucoid discharge. A tender lymph node is often present in front of the ear .
What to do?
Antibiotics usually don’t work in a viral infection.
Instead, follow these basic principles:
Hygiene: wash hands frequently, avoid touching the eyes and sharing towels.
Cold compresses 4-6 times a day. This reduces swelling of the lids and watering of the eyes.
Quarantine: stay away from communal activities—work, school, daycare—as long as discharge is present.
“Avoid physical contact with conjunctivitis patients”
The irritation and discharge may get worse for three to five days before getting better, and symptoms can persist for two to three weeks. If in doubt, it is advised you see an eye specialist.