The scorching Indian summer brings with it a lot of eye problems and monsoon, while it ushers in relief from heat, it adds to the woes of the eyes.
What are the common eye problems seen during summer?
- Eye Allergies especially spring catarrh
- Dry Eye
- Trachoma & Swimming Pool Conjunctivitis
- Other infections
What is conjunctivitis?
The surface of the white of the eye and the back surface of eyelids is covered by a thin protective membrane called conjunctiva. Inflammation i.e. redness & swelling, of this membrane is called conjunctivitis.
What causes it?
The common causes of conjunctivitis are:
- Infection - Virus, Bacteria, Chlamydia, etc.
- Allergy - to dust, pollen, animal dandruff, medicines, cosmetics, contact-lenses, etc.
- Chemicals - acid, alkali, cosmetics, contact lens cleaning solutions, bleach in swimming pool, etc.
- Injury - mechanical, heat, radiation, etc.
Viral infections are prone to occur as epidemics during rainy season when the body immunity may be low and the conditions are favorable for spread of infection. Infection tends to spread by direct contact, fingers, flies and fomites (e.g. towel, toiletries, etc).
What is the treatment?
Ideally one should consult an eye surgeon immediately and have proper treatment initiated. But if medical help is not immediately available then it may help to wash the eye gently with clean water, do some cold compresses using ice packs, and instill some mild antibiotic drops (e.g., Chloramphenicol, etc.). Self-medication should be avoided as far as possible and in no case should you use steroid eye drops without proper medical advice.
What are the precautions one may observe to prevent conjunctivitis or its spread?
Some precautions may help in making the patient more comfortable during conjunctivitis and prevent its spread to others.
- Discontinue contact lenses immediately
- Do not share handkerchief, towels and other toiletries
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from conjunctivitis (casual interaction does not lead to spread of infection)
- Wash your hands immediately after taking care of a family member suffering from conjunctivitis
- Avoid swimming if you have conjunctivitis
- Avoid swimming during epidemics of conjunctivitis
- Avoid exposure to dust pollution, chemicals, fumes and bright sunlight
- Use sunglasses if have conjunctivitis to avoid discomfort from bright light and to avoid alarming people around you
- Avoid crowded places during epidemics
What eye allergies are common during summer months?
One can get allergy to heat, dust & sun during the summer months. There could also be allergies to certain pollen or organic dust at the onset & end of summer season. Spring Catarrh or vernal conjunctivitis is a type of allergy seen in young boys most commonly during summer months.
What is the treatment of allergy?
The best form of treatment for allergy, if at all possible, is to identify & avoid causative agent or allergen. But in most cases it is either not possible to find out exact agent causing allergy or to completely avoid it. In these situations one needs to use anti-allergy medication in the form of anti-histaminics, mast-cell stabilizing drugs &, if allergy is severe, steroids.
What is Dry Eye & how to treat it?
Dry eye is a condition where the tear film of the eye is inadequate in quantity or quality resulting in an unstable tear film which breaks frequently giving rise to dry spots on cornea of the eye. These leads to symptoms of irritation, redness, soreness, dry feeling, gritty sensation and paradoxically reflex watering. These symptoms are worsening on exposure to dry cold air, hot wind and reduced blinking seen while working on computers, watching TV or prolonged reading.
Treatment is usually in the form of frequent instillation of lubricant or artificial tear eye drops. One should also avoid conditions that aggravate dry eye. Examination by an eye surgeon can help to rule out underlying treatable causes of dry eye.
What’s a stye? What causes it & what’s the treatment?
Syte is an infection of glands of eyelids which leads to painful and sometimes pus-filled swelling at eyelid margins. It causes red painful swelling on the eyelids with the formation of pus points. The swelling may burst releasing pus and blood-stained discharge which brings relief.
Sytes are commonly caused by frequent rubbing of eyes with unwashed hands and by eye strain caused by reading or working on computers.
The treatment is in the form of oral antibiotics & pain-killers and instillation of antibiotic eye drops which should be used for 2-4 weeks to prevent a recurrence.
What is corneal ulcer?
Corneal ulcer is severe infection of the cornea (clear black part of the eye) which may result from trauma or be a complication of conjunctivitis or use of contaminated contact lenses. The infection can be bacterial, fungal or viral. It leads to severe pain, redness, watering, blurring of vision, photophobia and a yellowish-white spot on the cornea. Immediate help of an expert eye surgeon should be sought. If medical help is not close at hand, it is advisable to start frequent instillation of broad-spectrum antibiotic eye drops e.g., Chloramphenicol, etc.