Important Myths and facts about Conjunctivitis /Eye Flu
Created by Dr.Sameer Kaushal Updated on Oct 27, 2020
First rains of the season and the first emotion is of great respite from the torturing heat and a few hours later comes the strong urge to have pakodas and chai. Life could not be better. A few more hours into the rainy season and the reality starts showing its ugly face with waterlogging, traffic jams and power cuts followed by the real problem of all the water borne diseases.
As an ophthalmologist, the most common disease that I encounter is "Conjunctivitis" also called "Eye Flu", "Pink Eye" or "Madras eyes". Like every season I have been getting a high number of cases since the last few days and that's how I thought of sharing some facts and tips to help you deal with this problem just in case if the need arises.
Common Myths that Surround Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye Disease
- The disease does not spread by looking at each other.
- There are NO eye drops that can be used by a normal person to prevent catching the infection
- The use of hand sanitizer is not useful as the virus causing the conjunctivitis is resistant to alcohol-based disinfectants.
- The disease does not worsen by watching TV or with computer use.
- Frequent splashing of water in the eyes does not help. In fact the tap water actually irritates the eye and washes away all the antibodies the body is secreting in the tears to tackle the infection.
Know these facts that will help in tackling the Conjunctivitis or Eye Flu
Now that we have identified the myths, lets replace them with hard facts, which will help u in tackling the disease. Read on..
- Most cases of conjunctivitis especially those during epidemics in rainy season are caused by virus. The most common virus being "Adenovirus"- A very hardy virus resistant to harsh surroundings and chemicals.
- As of now; there are NO drugs available that can be put in the eye or eaten to cure this infection. It is body's own immunity that takes care of the infection, and it eventually does
- Any eye drops that your doctor prescribes will not shorten the duration of the disease. The antibiotic eye drops that a doctor prescribes cannot cure the infection and are given with the presumption that some of the cases (especially in children) are bacterial and will respond to treatment.
- The disease usually spreads by touch and our hands are the major culprits in this regard. Therefore the best method to prevent spread of the virus is frequent hand washing. Medicated soaps do not have any advantage over normal soaps.
- There are NO eye drops that can be used by a normal person to prevent catching the infection. In fact if one shares the eye drops that are being used by a patient, one is more likely to catch the virus than otherwise.
- Other household things coming in contact with the eyes including pillows, towels and handkerchiefs can also contribute to the spread of the virus and should be separate for the patient.
- Another common mode of spread of this infection is the swimming pool, the use of which may be avoided during rainy season.
- The severity of the symptoms varies from season to season depending on the particular virus, which is prevalent at the time. The severity of the disease also varies from person to person and depends on the health of the eye, body's immunity and use of concurrent medications especially use of steroids.
- Most people have thick sticky discharge especially in the morning. This can be cleaned with a soft wet cloth or cotton. Frequent washing the eye with water is not helpful and can actually irritate the eye
Things to Remember to Recover from Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis
It can take anywhere between 3 days to 3 weeks for the infection to resolve depending on the above factors. Some drugs are under trial and its possible that they may be available soon. Some doctors prefer to use steroid eye drops to reduce symptoms. This is actually a controversial topic for which this is not the right context. But what is worth mentioning is that the most important aspect of use of steroids is the timing. If used too early in the course of the disease, it can actually worsen the problem, increasing the total duration of symptoms.
But in the later part of the disease, it can be very helpful in reducing the symptoms. In any case, use of steroids has to be properly monitored by an ophthalmologist and self-medication is a clear no-no. It is also important to confirm that the diagnosis of conjunctivitis as every case of red eye during rainy season is not conjunctivitis. Having conjunctivitis does not preclude u from doing your day-to-day work as long as one feels comfortable doing so.
The Important take away in Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is a self-limiting disease that spontaneously resolves. It is highly contagious and the best way to prevent spread is frequent hand washing with soap and water. The treatment is only to control the symptoms and not to cure the infection for which body's immune cells are enough.
Hopefully, these few facts, tips and myths about this disease will help in keeping the eye health of our families safe. Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below; we’d love to hear from you.
| Sep 17, 2019
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