Conjunctivitis: Health Officials On Toes
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21 September 2010
By Pritha Chatterjee
Bacterial Form Emerges Strong, Self–medication Poses Problems
IN September, civic hospitals were flooded with 1,000 conjunctivitis cases mostly schoolstudents and Ganpati mandal visitors.
Even as the city's public health administration is spreading awareness and investigating a new trend of complications and virulence seen this season, self–medication and more cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are emerging a major worry.
Dr Keiki Mehta, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Breach Candy Hospital, says: "In viral conjunctivitis, there is eye irritation and minor vision loss in the early stage. Patients report to doctors earlier. In the bacterial form, they resort to self medication for 3–4 days as there is no vision loss."
General practitioner Dr Suhas Pingle says, "I am seeing at least 60 per cent more bacterial cases. The eye discharge being thicker in bacterial conjunctivitis, patients feel it is eye wax and postpone treatment.
In the viral form, the discharge is more constant and of lower density usually associated with conjunctivitis."
Doctors say over the counter steroids are leading to complications like haemorrhage.
Dr Nisheeta Agarwala, Consultant at PD Hinduja Hospital in Mahim, says, "We are seeing a 60–70 per cent rise in haemorrhagic conjunctivitis. Though heightened virulence could be a factor, many a time, steroids trigger bleeding." In the long run, it could cause glaucoma and damage the optic nerve leading to steady loss of vision. "Patients are also taking antibiotics without doctor's advice, which could lead to drug–resistance," she cautions.
In the viral strain, rare complications like corneal damage have become common. Dr Deepak Sadarangani, consultant, Jaslok Hospital, says, "Corneal damage leads to severe loss of vision. Healing becomes slow. Where recovery time is usually 3–4 days, patients are taking 10–15 days." Dr Agarwala confirmed 10–12 cases of corneal damage had been treated at PD Hinduja.
Doctors say this could be attributed to virulence of the causative strain, but self–medication and treatment delay are responsible too.
"Steroids make the virus dormant, patients think they are cured. If the right antibacterial and antiviral is given early, complications can be avoided," said Dr Agarwala.
BMC Executive Health Officer Dr GT Ambe says, "BMC is on alert though it is a seasonal disease. We are investigating trends of the bacterial form. People are being advised against self–medication."