After the onslaught of dengue and H1N1, the city is witnessing a spurt in cases of a severe form of conjunctivitis, which lasts for up to 10 days, instead of the usual week-long period. Not only does the infection last longer, but it also infects the cornea, leading to blurry vision and sensitivity to light.
"The infection lasts 7 to 10 days instead of the usual 5 to 7 days. In one in every five cases, the cornea is also infected along with the conjunctiva," said Dr Mahipal Sachdev, director, Centre for Sight, where 20-30 conjunctivitis cases are being treated every day.
"The long summer and extended monsoon have led to a spurt in cases over the past two weeks. This seasonal outbreak is expected to last for another month," said Dr Jeewan Singh Titiyal, head of Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Conjunctivitis is an infection of the conjunctiva — the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and part of the eyeball — usually caused by viral infection. The infection causes the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva to swell, giving a pink or red tinge to the whites of the eyes. The swollen vessels make the eyes feel gritty and painful, causing a watery discharge.
"Though viral isolation has not been done, the clinical look is of an adenoviral (a type of virus) conjunctivitis. Cases of super-added bacterial conjunctivitis are also coming," said Sachdev.
Hospitals and clinics have been flooded with conjunctivitis patients over a month, with the cornea of one in every five patients being infected. Normally, conjunctivitis is a self-limiting condition and, like all viral infections, gets over without treatment within a week. This outbreak, however, has been characterised by an infection that causes itchiness and tearing for up to 10 days.
"Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and patients are advised to wash their hands frequently besides using separate towels and linen," said Titiyal.
Viral conjunctivitis with watery discharge goes away on its own and, at most, requires warm compress — cloth soaked in warm water — applied to closed eyes to soothe the discomfort. A thick discharge indicates bacterial infection, which can be treated with antibiotic eye drops.