Doctors advise caution in use of steroid eye drops as conjunctivitis, eye flu cases surge

- August 5, 2023
| By : Patriot Bureau |

'Conjunctivitis in the present epidemic is a self-limiting disease and does not require antibiotic treatment in all cases; hand and facial hygiene are very important to prevent its spread'

Doctors in the national capital have issued warnings regarding the surge in conjunctivitis and eye flu cases. They advise against the irrational use of steroid eye drops, as although they may provide temporary relief, they can cause more harm in the long run.

Dr J S Bhalla, a senior consultant eye surgeon at DDU hospital, emphasises that early detection and appropriate therapies are crucial for a quick resolution of the disease and to minimise potential harmful effects or transmission of untreated conjunctivitis. Antibiotic treatment is not necessary for all cases, and hand and facial hygiene play a vital role in preventing its spread. Topical corticosteroids may be helpful in specific cases of adenoviral conjunctivitis and severe cases to prevent scarring, but caution should be exercised as corticosteroids can potentially prolong infection.

Dr J S Titiyal, chief of the RP Centre at AIIMS, highlights that the condition is mainly caused by highly contagious viruses, particularly adenovirus. In some cases, secondary bacterial infections may occur, and in such situations, the use of antibiotic eye drops is recommended.

Dr Bhalla warns that primary care physicians may sometimes prescribe antibiotics without a proper differential diagnosis, leading to misdiagnosis of viral infections as bacterial conjunctivitis. This could result in inappropriate antibiotic use and the risk of antibiotic resistance.

Both doctors strongly advise against indiscriminate use of over-the-counter steroid eye drops. Only ophthalmologists’ recommendations should be followed for specific indications, as the misuse of steroids can lead to glaucoma and cataracts over the long term.

Dr Titiyal mentions that common symptoms of conjunctivitis are itching and grittiness, and lubricating drops and cold compresses can provide symptomatic relief. Wearing dark goggles can help reduce photophobia and prevent frequent touching of the eyes in active conjunctivitis cases.

Dr Bhalla warns that topical steroids can increase eye pressure more severely and rapidly in children compared to adults. They also increase the risk of bacterial conjunctivitis and can suppress the immune response, leading to secondary ocular infections.

Finally, it is suggested that topical steroids should only be sold as prescription-only medications, and physicians should refrain from irrational use of steroidal eye drops.(With inputs from PTI)