Eye Matters
May 15, 2018
Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis

Dear Doctor,

I had the red eye. It kept me down for over two weeks, but it’s over now. However, I’m still seeing blurry.

Why is that so?

Dear Patient:

As you may well know there are different causes of the red eye. It could be caused by irritation, bacteria, a virus, chemical agents, allergies, fungus or parasites.
I believe the one you are referring to is caused by a virus and it is the one that is going on right now in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It has been going on for quite a while. We saw the first cases early in the year and amazingly I am still getting patients now in September with symptoms of the red eye. This is the worst epidemic of conjunctivitis that I have seen in a long time and believe me, I am no spring chicken.

This red eye is caused by a contagious virus. Hence the name viral conjunctivitis. It is typically associated with soreness, watery eyes, eye pain, gritty feelings in the eyes, itching, swelling and sometimes blurry vision and a mild discharge..

The real name is “Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis” and it may be preceded by flu like symptoms, including fever, sore throat and nausea. Diarrhea, vomiting and muscle pain are less reported symptoms.

Very often, someone in the family or at work has had the disease.

It can take 2-14 days for the disease to manifest (incubation period), and the person may remain infectious for 10-14 days after symptoms develop.
The symptoms may last for 7-21 days and in more than 50 per cent of cases, the other eye becomes involved.

In some cases, due to rubbing and the transfer of bacteria into the eye, one could get a combination of a viral/bacterial infection. This is called a superinfection.

What happens, however, is that some cases go on to develop complications and the patient develops what we call corneal lesions on the eyes and this is the main cause of the blurry vision. These lesions are characterized by opaque spots on the cornea, much like looking through a dirty window. These patients need stronger drops.

Normally lubricants and an antibiotic/anti-inflammatory eye drop combination are prescribed, along with cold compresses. But in cases associated with lesions, stronger anti-inflammatory drugs are indicated.

These corneal lesions can cause the eyes to become extremely light sensitive and may require patients to need sunglasses and/or prescription glasses.
It is important to warn other family members about the disease. Patients who are infected should not share towels, pillows, washcloths, or other items used communally.
Sick leave of at least two weeks is given to infected employees to reduce the spread of the disease.

So, if you find your eyes are still blurry after an episode of the red eye, please hurry down to your doctor. It may be that you have corneal lesions and that you may need extra treatment. The lesions usually disappear on their own over time, but the persistent ones and other complications may need treatment.

Remember to keep an eye on your eyes!