Eye Infections: How You Can Prevent & Treat Them
Eye infections are more common during the monsoon months. This rise in eye diseases can be attributed the increased moisture in the air. In fact, various viral and bacterial infections could have you rushing to an eye hospital near you. But, there’s a lot you can do to prevent it. Eye care, especially among diabetics, is often ignored but very important.
We have Dr. Ritika Sachdeva of the Centre For Sight talking about various kinds of eye infections and diseases, and how one can help prevent and treat them.
COMMON EYE INFECTIONS
During the monsoons, common eye infections include conjunctivitis, stye, meibomitis, dry eyes and corneal ulcers. Most of these can be avoided by taking certain precautions regarding ocular hygiene, and good control of diabetes. Uncontrolled or fluctuating levels of blood sugar put a person at more risk of developing infections. Frequent touching of ocular surface with unwashed hands is the main source of infection.
Dryness of the eyes is a common problem. It is aggravated due to our increased use of computers, smartphones, and being indoors in air-conditioning. You may be experiencing discomfort, a burning sensation, grittiness, and even blurred vision when your eyes are dry.
Prevention: Besides ocular hygiene, frequent blinking of eyes, looking away from the TV/computer screen every few minutes, and the use of tear substitutes provides relief.
It is the most common eye infection during the monsoons. The surface of the white of the eye and the back surface of eyelids is covered by a thin protective membrane called conjunctiva. Inflammation and redness of this membrane is called conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is caused by viral or bacterial infection. It can be a result of allergy to dust, pollen, medicines, cosmetics or contact lenses. The chlorinated water of swimming pool can also cause inflammation in the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis doesn’t spread by looking in the eyes of the infected person.
Prevention: To avoid conjunctivitis, maintain strict personal hygiene. Avoid sharing of items of personal use, like towels, handkerchiefs, eye liner, kajal, lenses, eye drops, etc.
Treatment: At the first instance of the watering of eyes, you should consult an ophthalmologist. If you are a contact lens user, discontinue wearing them immediately. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops. Use them as directed and stay at home to take rest. This way, you will recover faster and not spread the infection to others. Wearing dark glasses helps as it keeps your eyes cool and shielded from further dust.
It is an infection in the eyelid which looks like a pimple. It occurs when the oil gland in the eyelid gets infected. This painful little bump is a limiting condition which ruptures on its own. Avoid popping a stye. Styes are caused by staphylococcal bacteria found in the nose. When you touch your nose and then your eyes, you are at risk of contracting a stye.
Treatment: Warm water compress works as an effective home remedy for relieving the pain and inflammation of stye. However, if the stye happens regularly, get in touch with an ophthalmologist, as severe cases may need antibiotic therapy.
It is a severe form of infection that could be viral, bacterial or fungal. It occurs as a red, painful eye, with mild to severe discharge and reduced vision. The condition results from a localised infection of the cornea, similar to an abscess. Most cases of corneal ulcers are due to a bacterial or fungal infection that invades the cornea—often following eye injury, trauma or other damage. There have been instances when splashing of contaminated water in eyes has caused infection surrounding the cornea.
Contact lens users are particularly susceptible to a corneal ulcer.
Uncontrolled diabetes may also lead to involvement of the cornea and ulcer formation. If not controlled, it may result in blindness.
Prevention: Good control of blood sugar, ocular hygiene, and proper cleansing of contact lenses by contact lens users can help in its prevention.
Treatment: An ophthalmologist will diagnose a corneal ulcer. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial such cases. Corneal ulcer may lead to vision loss or blindness. Hence, there is a need for aggressive treatment plan. Treatment usually involves antibiotics as well as antiviral or anti-fungal medications. Your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation of the eye. Do not self-medicate yourself under any circumstance with steroid eye drops as it can have devastating effect on your eyes and result in corneal melting or loss of vision. In severe cases, patients are hospitalised so that the correct treatment is given. If infections are stubborn or leave a scar, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision.
EYE CARE TIPS FOR EYE INFECTIONS
Many of these tips are relevant not just during the monsoon season, but all year round. Use them as precautionary measures to protect yourself from eye infections.
1) Keep Your Eyes Closed:
Close your eyes when you decide to get soaked in the rain as it screens off atmospheric pollutants. Rain water, especially when you’re standing under a tree or taking shade under a building, can be highly contaminated with pollutants. Rain water also has a drying effect on your tear glands and can make your eyes red and itchy.
2) Protect Yourself With Sunglasses:
Wear light coloured sunglasses if you have to go out during the day to keep your eyes protected. Contact lens wearers should diligently follow the rule. This will prevent eye dryness, irritants settling on their contacts, and worse, their lenses getting blown away.
3) Avoid Puddles & Pools:
Still water puddles on the roads can be highly toxic. Whether it’s an overflowing sewer, clogged drain, or rainwater puddles, be sure to keep your distance. The backsplash from when vehicles cross these puddles could accidentally get in your eye. This can lead to corneal ulcers. If it does happen, be sure to wash out your eyes with clean, filtered water as soon as possible. Also, avoid swimming during the monsoon season for similar reasons. Contaminated rainwater falling into pools making it a breeding ground for infections.
4) Practice Good Hygiene To Prevent Eye Infections
- Avoid sharing towels, handkerchiefs, spectacles, lenses, cosmetics, etc.
- Make a conscious effort to blink often to prevent dry eyes.
- Splash clean water in your eyes when you take off your lenses at the end of the day.
- Use OTC eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated and clean.
- Discard eye cosmetics and lenses you were using before you contracted an infection.
- Practice eye exercises to relax them when you’re at work.
- Avoid looking at computer/phone screens for a long period of time, especially just before you go to bed.
- Always wash your hands before you touch you eye. Also, do not rub them when they itch. Try splashing them with clean water. Stye, an infection of the glands of the eyelids is also usually caused by frequent rubbing of eyes with unwashed or dirty hands.
PREVENTING EYE INFECTIONS AMONG DIABETICS
Keeping sugar levels in check and maintaining a healthy diet are the most important. Other than that, some basic prevention tips for diabetics include:
- Wash you hands and eyes frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes unnecessarily.
- Do not share personal items that come in contact with your eyes.
- Always visit an ophthalmologist in case of an eye problem or infection. Do not ignore red eye.
- Contact lens users who are diabetic should be extra cautious and go for a basic eye health checkup every 3-6 months.
- Do not do self medicate or buy over the counter eye drops. They may contain steroids which may worsen the eye infection.