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Pink eye/acute conjunctivitis

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Pink Eye, otherwise known as acute conjunctivitis, is an inflammatory process that affects hundreds of Vincentians every year. It is usually caused by viruses, bacteria or allergies. Eye injuries and mechanical irritation can also mimic the pink eye.

Symptoms may include redness of the eye, itching, tearing, discharge, swollen eye lids and a foreign body sensation. Depending on the causative agent (e.g. viral or bacterial), the pink eye can be highly contagious. The symptoms are hardly distinguishable.{{more}}

In many cases, antibiotics are prescribed, in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medications. Most health care providers treat all cases of conjunctivitis with topical antibiotics; however, antibiotics are ineffective when treating viral conjunctivitis. The body tends to build resistance with unnecessary use of antibiotics. This makes the antibiotics less effective when they are really needed.

All that will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a company called RPS. A new rapid care test called AdenoPlus® has been developed. It can rapidly aid in the differential diagnosis of acute conjunctivitis. FDA approval has been issued and ophthalmologists will soon start using this test in offices.

According to the company, the test will allow the doctor to:

1. Make rapid, accurate diagnosis before the patient leaves the doctor’s office.

2. Isolate and manage contagious patients.

3. Prevent the spread of infection.

4. Reduce unnecessary antibiotics prescriptions.

5. Reduce potential ocular allergies and toxicities associated with unnecessary antibiotic use.

6. Help prevent antibiotic resistance.

It should be noted that up to 65 per cent of all cases are viral and up to 90 per cent of viral conjunctivitis cases are caused by viral adenovirus. The test has a 90 per cent sensitivity and a 96 per cent specificity. Recommended treatment for viral conjunctivitis includes the following:

1. Cool compresses three to four times daily.

2. Frequent hand washing.

3. Decontamination of the home and office by wiping down surfaces with diluted bleach, changing sheets, using clean towels etc. Using sunglasses if eyes are light sensitive.

4. Throw away old make-up to prevent reinfection.

5. Avoid wearing contact lenses during the period of illness.

6. Avoid close contact with others for at least five to seven (5-7) days or until there are no symptoms: i.e. itching, tearing, redness etc.

Unless there is suspicion of a co-existing bacterial infection, antibiotics are not absolutely necessary in treating viral conjunctivitis. For bacterial conjunctivitis, treatment, consists of antibiotic eye drops or ointment and patients can usually return to work 24-48 hours after starting treatment with a low risk of spreading infection to others. In the case of allergies, topical ocular antihistamine eye drops can be used to help the patient.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com
Tel: 784 456-1210

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