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Protect Yourself From Conjunctivitis


Eye infections are common throughout the year but may rise due to the summer heat or rainy months. Conjunctivitis or pink eye is the most common eye infection in India and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, irritants like smoke or dust, or allergens like pollen. When conjunctivitis occurs due to viral or bacterial infection, it is contagious and can spread from an infected individual to others.

1. What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is characterized by the inflammation or infection of the eyeball's outermost layer and the eyelid's inner lining, causing pink or red-colored eyes.

2. What is Madras eye?

Conjunctivitis usually occurs and spreads in hot and humid climates across India. This eye infection is called the 'Madras Eye' in Chennai, and it is interesting to note that conjunctivitis is called the 'Bombay eye' in Delhi. The 'Madras Eye' cases rise in Tamil Nadu during the hot summer months and around October-November.

In many people, conjunctivitis occurs due to the Adenovirus, known for causing the common cold and flu, and may be accompanied by cold and fever.

3. What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of conjunctivitis are characteristic of the disease, making it easy to diagnose and treat. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pink/red color in the conjunctiva of the eye
  • Swelling of eyelids
  • Watery discharge from the eyes
  • Thick yellow discharge from the eyes
  • A feeling that something is stuck in the eye
  • Frequent urge to rub your eyes
  • Itching or burning sensation in the eye
  • Stickiness of the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased sensitivity to eyes

4. How does the infection spread?

Conjunctivitis is a contagious disease that spreads from infected to healthy individuals. However, when conjunctivitis occurs due to non-infectious agents like allergens or pollutants, it does not spread.

Common means of infection spread are:

  • Close personal contact- touching or shaking hands.
  • Touching an infected object or surface with germs and then touching your eyes before washing your hands.

Unlike a common belief, conjunctivitis does not spread by looking into the infected individual's eyes.

5. What should you do if you develop a Madras eye infection?

Developing conjunctivitis can be irritating, and most people worry about how to get relief from the symptoms. A few measures to take if you develop the Madras eye are:

  • Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or with an alcohol-based sanitizer, especially after putting on eye drops, touching, or rubbing your eyes.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes too often.
  • Wash any discharge around the eyes using a clean cotton cloth or cotton balls and discard them safely after use.
  • Use separate eye drops bottles for each eye.
  • Change pillowcases, towels, and bedcovers frequently and wash them in hot detergent.
  • If you wear contact lenses, you must avoid wearing them until the infection resolves.
  • Avoid sharing pillows, towels, cosmetics, eye drops or sunglasses with others.
  • Avoid saunas and swimming pools.

6. What precautions can be taken to prevent a Madras eye infection?

While most of us may have got conjunctivitis at least once in our lifetime, here are some dos and don'ts to prevent them in the season:


  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds frequently
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
  • Wash your hands well after coming in contact with an infected person.
  • Use a fresh and clean towel/wash cloth every day.
  • Frequently disinfecting surfaces like table tops and door knobs can help prevent the spread of the infection.


  • Avoid touching eyes with unwashed hands
  • Do not share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items with others
  • Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, pillow covers and handkerchiefs with others

7. When should you see your eye doctor?

Most of us presume our conjunctivitis will resolve by itself and avoid a visit to the doctor. However, treating it in time causes early resolution of symptoms and prevents the spread to other family members.

If you develop pink eye, here are some signs to visit an eye doctor:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Excessive watering of eyes
  • Stickiness of eyelids
  • White discharge from eyes

When dealing with conjunctivitis, we must also keep the following in mind:

  • Never self-medicate
  • Avoid using Over-The-Counter products without a prescription
  • Never use steroid eye drops in the case of Madras eye infection

8. When should you seek urgent medical help?

A few signs and symptoms that require an urgent visit to the ophthalmologist include:

  • Blurring of vision
  • Inability to open eyes in bright light
  • Severe, excruciating eye pain
  • Presence of white spots in the black of the eye

If you are experiencing one or more symptoms mentioned above, it is best to get them checked by our expert ophthalmologist at the best ENT hospital in Chennai Gleneagles Global Health City in Perumbakkam.

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