Active! brings you a handy cut-and-keep guide to this month's fast-spreading infection conjunctivitis
The extended monsoon has pushed up humidity levels in Mumbai, causing a rise in diseases including malaria and dengue, and now conjunctivitis. High humidity levels are conducive to the breeding of the conjunctivitis virus.
Dr Keiki R Mehta, Medical Director of Mehta International Eye Institute, Colaba, and senior consultant ophthalmologist at Breach Candy Hospital and Saifee Hospital, cautions that conjunctivitis can assume epidemic proportions, if left unchecked.
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin outermost membrane of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid. Conjunctivitis or "pink eye" is caused by viral as well as bacterial infections, but occurs mainly due to a viral infection.
In certain cases, allergies caused by irritants and dryness can also lead to conjunctivitis. It is extremely contagious, and spreads through the sharing of contaminated objects.
"I have at least 4 to 5 people coming in for the treatment of conjunctivitis," Dr Mehta confirms. The ailment typically includes four to five days of redness in the eyes, discharge and itching.
"In most cases, the infection in one eye, spreads to the other," says Dr Mehta, adding that the immunity levels play a key role in getting affected by the disease. "Someone with low immunity can get it again after 15 days of recovery from the first spell."
The gravity of the infection and the manner of mutation or treatment also determines the chances of being affected by conjunctivitis. A common occurrence is that of self- medication, wherein patients buy eye drops off the counter or just wipe the eyes with wet cotton wool.
Medical experts caution against buying drops without a doctor's prescription. In the case of a viral infection, steroid eye drops must be avoided as they can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness. Antibiotic drops can be used to relieve irritation, and family members can also them as a preventive measure.
Homeopathic medication is also an option to ensure speedy recovery and boost the immunity of the patient such that he doesn't acquire the infection again.
Dr Mehta emphasises practicing basic preventive measures such as keeping objects used by the person with conjunctivitis separately. These objects include towels, handkerchiefs, clothes and soaps.
He advises people affected with the virus to wear dark glasses as it stops them from repeatedly rubbing the eyes. It is advisable to stay at home until one is completely healed as it prevents the virus from spreading.
Those taking care of and administering eye drops to patients must wash their hands well both before and after putting the drops.
"Though people are aware of these precautions, they are somehow not mindful of them," observes Dr Mehta.
"Simple measures like wiping staircase railings, door handles and door bells with phenyl or any concentrated liquid cleaner or disinfectant prevents conjunctivitis from spreading," he advises.
Cold cotton pads: Dr Niteen Dedhia of Ojas Laser Eye Clinic advises wiping the eyes gently with cotton wool soaked in ice-cold water at regular intervals to alleviate the sensation of burning, inflammation and soreness.
Tissues over napkins: Dr Mitesh Vora, Homeopath, suggests the use of disposable tissues or paper towels rather than handkerchiefs.
Sleep on right side: If conjunctivitis has affected only one eye, avoid sleeping on the unaffected side as mucous may trickle into the other eye, causing the infection to spread.
Don't run your hand on staircase or escalator railings as far as possible. These are fertile germ areas. Try and wipe knobs on doors of your home and office with a strong disinfectant at the start of each day.