Low humidity, proliferation of viruses in the air and a higher incidence of respiratory diseases with the arrival of autumn increase the risk of viral and allergic conjunctivitis. According to ophthalmologist Leôncio Queiroz Neto from the Penido Burnier Institute, our eyes are connected to the nose through the tear duct, which is why respiratory diseases influence eye health. This explains why it is common for us to have red eyes when we have a cold or flu”, he exemplifies.
The specialist clarifies that low air humidity reduces the body’s defenses and dries out all the mucous membranes, including the tear that has the function of protecting the surface of the eyes. “The lack of tears, added to environmental changes, facilitate the appearance of allergic and viral conjunctivitis. In both types, inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the sclera, the white part of the eye, and the inner side of the eyelids occurs.
He points out that in people contaminated by covid the danger of dry eye and conjunctivitis is greater. Therefore, in case of discomfort in the eyes accompanied by a lot of fatigue, body pain and fever, he recommends taking the covid tests to avoid greater health risks, especially among those who are over 60 years old.
“Swollen eyelids, redness, itching, burning, feeling of sand in the eyes, tearing and photophobia (aversion to light) are common symptoms of all types of conjunctivitis”, emphasizes the ophthalmologist. “It is the secretion that differentiates one from the other, being watery in the allergic and transparent and viscous in the viral”, he points out.
“Allergic conjunctivitis at this time of year is mainly caused by increased air pollution and is more common in those who suffer from some type of allergy. This is because studies show that 6 out of 10 allergic people manifest the disease in the eyes”, he points out. Unlike the viral, it is not contagious, but it can cause corneal damage and permanently decrease vision, he warns.
Mild cases are treated with antihistamine eye drops. The doctor points out that the use of oral antiallergic, to treat systemic allergies simultaneous to conjunctivitis, dries the tear and therefore makes it difficult for the eyes to recover.
Those who already have keratoconus, a degenerative disease that makes the cornea take the shape of a cone and whose main risk factor is scratching the eyes, should use the eye drops already prescribed by the ophthalmologist and in case of an allergic crisis during the fall, go for a consultation. “More severe cases of allergic conjunctivitis are treated with eye drops containing corticosteroids. The drug can only be used under medical supervision”, he stresses. That’s because, the correct regression must be done so as not to cause a rebound effect. Using it for a long time can cause glaucoma and cataracts.
The ophthalmologist’s tips to prevent allergic processes are:
· Keep the environments ventilated and free of dust.
· Avoid putting your hands with chemicals in your eyes
· Do not walk or do other exercises in very polished areas.
· Drink a lot of water.
· Do not use pencil on the inner edge of the eyelids so as not to change the pH of the tear.
Queiroz Neto says that viral conjunctivitis It is highly contagious, can appear at any age, and its main transmission vehicle is to bring contaminated hands to the eyes. The highest risk groups are:
· Post-menopausal women due to lower tear production with the drop in estrogen.
· Children because they have a developing immune field
· Elderly because they have the most fragile immune system.
In companies and schools, he warns, transmission occurs by sharing computer keyboards or mouse and by contacting light switches and stair railing. The specialist also draws attention to supermarket trolleys and retail counters. Initial treatment is done with cold compresses and intense lubrication. In severe cases, anti-inflammatory eye drops containing corticosteroids are the most indicated. “The sale of this class of eye drops is free, but they should never be used without a prescription and medical supervision to avoid major complications such as cataracts and glaucoma,” he reiterates.
One expert tip is to wear sunglasses that, in addition to improving comfort in bright environments, prevent the proliferation of viruses intensified by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
A common mistake made by many people, he says, is using boric water, which increases irritation and can cause allergies. Like any viral disease, he points out, conjunctivitis has its symptoms controlled by drugs, but the virus can create resistance. Therefore, there are cases in which membranes form in the conjunctiva that require treatment with corticosteroids and even application of a laser to remove opacities that reduce visual acuity.
Prevention tips are:
· Wash your hands often or sanitize with alcohol.
· Practice moderate and constant exercise.
· Keep your eyes well hydrated.
· If you catch a cold or flu, keep wearing the mask.
· Avoid agglomerations in closed places.
· Don’t skip meals.
· Sleep 6 to 8 hours/day.
· Get the flu shot in April, especially if you missed any doses of the covid vaccine.