Chennai: This summer season, it seems some bacterial strains that cause conjunctivitis or "Madras eye" have become stronger and drug-resistant, an eye specialist said.
"We are getting around 10 patients with the Madras eye problem per day. We also find the bacteria that causes the conjunctivitis is becoming resistant to the over-the-counter eye drops," Sapna Mardi, senior consultant, medical retina and glaucoma services at Vasan Eye Care Hospital here, told IANS.
She said mild forms of bacteria are self-limiting and the eye will be alright soon but the infection by a more severe bacterial strain will take around three/four weeks to cure.
The eye ailment is also known as red or pink eye.
Mardi said Madras eye is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inside surface of the eyelids.
She said conjunctivitis is of three types - infective, allergic and chemical. Infective conjunctivitis is caused by bacterial or viral infection while allergic variant is due to seasonal allergies such as dust, smoke and pollen.
"Chemical conjunctivitis is the result of exposure of eyes to irritants such as shampoo, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine," she added.
Conjunctivitis caused by virus or bacteria is contagious and spreads from person to person through touching or contact, including contaminated hands, towels, handkerchiefs, and eye makeup.
"More than the bacterial infection, it is the viral conjunctivitis which is more serious as it affects the cornea and vision starts dropping," Mardi said.
Conjunctivitis makes the eyes look red and blood-shot. There is increased tearing and secretion of mucous and pus, often leading to matting of the eye lashes, particularly after sleep.
The infected person may experience an itching or burning sensation in the eyes, blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light (photophobia). Fortunately, conjunctivitis is self-limiting and usually runs its course in a week to 10 days, Mardi said.
She said keeping oneself well hydrated by drinking around eight glasses of water daily and eating foods rich in cereals and greens are good for the eyes.
A well-rested body and a good night's sleep show in bright healthy eyes. Chilled cucumber or tea bags applied over eyes refresh them and reduce tiredness.
Mardi said Madras city might be now called Chennai but the eye ailment retains its old name.
Precautions to be taken by people with Madras eye:
* Avoid touching or rubbing the infected eyes.
* Wash your eyes with cold water several times a day, especially after returning home from a long day outdoors.
* Avoid sharing articles such as towels, napkins, pillows, beds and eye cosmetics that can transmit the infection to you or to others.
* Wear glasses over contact lenses and never use anyone else's contact lenses.
* Shield your eyes with shades while travelling on a two-wheeler.
* Never swim without wearing goggles.
* Wash your hands before and after using eye drops and ointments.
* Do not apply ointments or drops used for an infected eye into an uninfected eye.
* Avoid direct interaction with people who have conjunctivitis until their condition heals.
* Do not touch or shake hands with infected persons.