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Conjunctivitis cases on the rise in Bangalore

Caught in a bind by dengue and H1N1 outbreaks, Bangaloreans now have another big irritant to contend with: conjunctivitis.

OVER the last week, cases of this eye infection have soared, with one city hospital recording as many as 350 cases. Doctors say this is a more virulent form of conjunctivitis. “We have been noticing more conjunctivitis cases since Friday. The number has gone up,” said Dr Kaushik Murali, consultant ophthalmologist at Sankara Eye Hospitals at Marathahalli. The scene has become so scary that the hospital gets nearly 25 cases every day. 

The monsoon is suspected to have triggered the escalation. “We are seeing both viral and bacterial infections. However, viral infection takes much more time to heal than bacterial. Also clinically, a person with viral conjunctivitis has a little fever, not much discharge, redness in eyes and has to be treated symptomatically,” said another doctor at the hospital. Dr MC Modi Charitable Eye Hospital, too, has seen a spurt in the number of cases. The daily inflow of patients is about 50 to 60 cases, with about 10 per cent severe in nature. Dr Suvarna Modi of the hospital said usually conjunctivitis cases are seen in May or June due to increase in pollen.

 “I don’t know the reason for this sudden increase. It could be the sudden change in the season,” she said. Even Dr Sriprakash KL, medical superintendent, Minto Ophthalmic Hospital, confirmed that there has been a 5 to 6 per cent rise in the cases since last week. 

According to Navshakti Nethralaya’s Dr Elankumaran, there has been an almost five- to ten-fold increase in the number of conjunctivitis cases in the last few weeks. “This is a viral conjunctivitis, as a viral one always occurs as an epidemic and spreads faster. However, this time, the viral infection is affecting the cornea that could affect the vision if not treated on time,” he said. 

Once cornea is affected, it is treated only by administering mild steroids. Apparently, 10 per cent of the total conjunctivitis patients were exhibiting this problem. The treatment time has also increased in viral infection, felt Dr Elankuraman. “Earlier, a patient would get better by a week’s time. Now, the infection itself takes two weeks with recovery taking another one week. However, in cases where the cornea is affected, it takes six to eight weeks for the eye to heal,” he said.   

Swelling of the eyes and eyelids are noticeable symptoms. “More than pain, patients feel foreign body sensation as each time the patient blinks it would feel like sandpapers being rubbed in the eyes,” explained the doctor. Interestingly, Dr Elankumaran feels that the epidemic has started early, since he was expecting it to begin in November or December.

(Published in Deccan Herald on 13th September, 2010. Page 1)


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