Beware of sore eyes

By Dr. C.R. Seimon, Consultant Ophthalmologist

They can be seen everywhere -- people with blood-shot eyes, tearing or oozing with pus. This epidemic of sore eyes or kerato-conjunctivitis sweeping across the country is due to a virus for which there is no curative treatment. However, for fear of a bacterial super-infection, antibiotics are used.

The disease is highly contagious and spreads quickly in schools, hostels, prisons, army camps, outpatient departments of hospitals and public transport.

The initial symptom is a gritty feeling under the upper lid of one eye, followed later by a profuse watery discharge. The lids tend to paste together after sleep. The affected eyes get quite red and the lids too may be swollen. A small gland in front of the ear becomes enlarged and tender. The disease spreads to the other eye in 50% of the patients.

The affected person harbours the virus in the eyes, nose and throat. As such the spread of the virus is by direct contact, use of common towels, pillows, wash basins and further via a sneeze or a cough. To date sore eyes have not caused blindness.

If you have sore eyes...

  • Patients with sore eyes should stay home, avoid contact with family as much as possible, avoid the use of other people’s towels, handkerchiefs etc and wash the face in warm water as often as possible
  • To prevent catching sore eyes, avoid close contact with a sufferer and also try not to travel with such a person in a closed air-conditioned bus or car.
  • After a sore-eyes attack which may last seven days or more, some patients may develop white spots on the cornea or dry eye.
  • In case of any doubt it is best to contact your doctor.
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