Conjunctivitis, a viral eye infection that spreads through contact, is on the rise over the last few weeks.
The infection, which is usually prevalent during the onset of monsoon, is not following a seasonal pattern, ophthalmologists said. Hospitals are reporting a 35% jump in the number of cases than in April.
“The pattern of the disease has changed and is no longer restricted to monsoon. There are far more cases being registered this season. The trend is perturbing,” Dr Sanjay Verma, head of the department of Ophthalmology, Paras Hospital, said. He said the hospital usually registers five cases a day, but in the past weeks, there have been 20 cases on an average daily.
Dr Kinshuk Biswas, consultant ophthalmologist of Columbia Asia Hospital, attributed the rise to chemical and allergic conjunctivitis caused by air pollution or chemical exposure, through irritants such as pollen, animal fur and chlorine.
People who experience chemical and allergic conjunctivitis display symptoms in both eyes. These symptoms manifests as a combination of itching, burning and excessive tearing of the eyes. Discharge from one or both eyes is a common symptom, as are swollen eyelids, redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision.
“As more people are engaging themselves in swimming to beat the heat, they also come in contact with high levels of chlorine that causes chemical conjunctivitis. If someone experiences severe eye irritation for more than a few hours after swimming they need to be evaluated by an eye care professional. Similarly, the prevailing high wind speeds are causing allergic reactions in eyes as a result of pollen and shedding of fur by animals,” Biswas said.
“We are seeing an unusual rise in the number of conjunctivitis cases over the last few weeks. The cases that have been coming to the OPD have features of both viral and bacterial infection that are severe and last more than a week. Daily, on an average, our hospital is witnessing almost 20-25 cases; people are advised to strictly maintain hand hygiene.” Dr Anita Sethi, director, opthalmology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, said.