Mumbai has witnessed a three-fold surge in reported conjunctivitis cases within the first two weeks of October. About 250-300 conjunctivitis patients have already been treated in the civic-run Murli Deora Eye Hospital in the short duration, as per a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation statement, and cases seem to be on the rise across the city.

Rainy weather prevailing over the Maharashtrian capital during this period has facilitated the sudden spike in conjunctivitis infections.

The humidity in the air increases during such weather, and this environment is especially conducive to acting as a breeding ground for infectious diseases, Dr Varsha Rokde, chief health officer of Murli Deora Eye Hospital, told TOI.

Below, we detail what conjunctivitis is, how it spreads, how best to prevent it, and more.

What is conjunctivitis, and what causes it?

Also referred to as ‘Pink Eye’, conjunctivitis is a highly contagious eye inflammation caused by bacterial, viral infections, or even allergic reactions.

Some bacteria that cause this eye infection include Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumonia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Further, some allergens which can trigger it are moulds, pollen, dirt, smoke, pool chlorine, contact lenses and some chemical substances such as shampoos and cosmetics.

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

Some signs that indicate that you have conjunctivitis and not a common eye infection include redness in the white of your eye or inner eyelid, watery and painful eyes, thick yellow discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, and a gritty feeling in one or both eyes. The eyes may also feel itchy and heavy, along with an intolerance to bright light.

What should you do if you experience these conjunctivitis symptoms?

Visiting a healthcare professional at the first sign of pain or discomfort in the eyes is recommended.

Your doctor may most likely prescribe an antibiotic for bacterial conjunctivitis, usually given topically as eye drops or ointment. Antibiotics may help shorten the length of infection, reduce complications, and reduce the spread to others. Avoid home remedies based on hearsay.

Whether viral or bacterial, the infection usually clears up in 5-6 days with no long-term consequences of note. In the meantime, patients must avoid touching their eyes, wash them with clean water several times a day and make sure that they don’t infect anyone else.

How to prevent contracting conjunctivitis in the first place?

While hardly a serious affliction, conjunctivitis can be pretty painful. So, to prevent its spread, the following measures can be followed religiously:

  • Avoid touching your eyes
  • Wash your hands often
  • Use a clean towel and washcloth daily
  • Don’t share towels or washcloths
  • Change your pillowcases often
  • Don’t share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items

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