Summer is the season of vacation, travel, fun…it’s also a season for a few eye problems such as:
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye): As summer approaches, we see a rise in patients walking into OPD with a red eye. Soon, we see their family members and friends also coming in with the same problem. The key to prevention here is good personal hygiene.
Conjunctivitis is a contagious disease, meaning it spreads by means of touch… it can be direct or indirect, i.e. the same objects being touched by a person with the infection and then by a normal person. Contrary to popular belief, conjunctivitis does not spread by looking into the patient’s eyes.
It is important to consult an Ophthalmologist since there can be several causes for the eye becoming red and one should avoid taking over-the-counter medication.
Following some simple measures may help to prevent the spread of the infection:
- Avoid crowded places
- Avoid sharing handkerchiefs, towels, napkins, bed sheets, pillow covers etc
- It is preferable to use tissue paper or cotton swabs to wipe the eyes and then discard them, instead of using a handkerchief
- Washing hands frequently, scrubbing clean
- Eye allergy: In summer there is more dust, pollen and several other substances in the air, which can elicit eye allergy (allergens). Dust mites (small insects) thrive in numbers during summer. Their residue can spread in the air and elicit an allergic response in the eyes.
The following tips may help:
- Avoid dusty environments
- When outdoors, using sunglasses acts as a physical barrier to prevent the entry of allergens into the eyes
- Frequent cleaning of the eyes with clean cold water will wash away the allergens and the chemical mediators that cause itching
- Keeping a cold compress on closed eyelids: A cooler temperature helps reduce itching by making chemical mediators that cause itching become less effective
- If a person is known to be vulnerable to eye allergy, he/ she should visit an ophthalmologist about 4-6 weeks before summer commences, so they can begin on medicines in advance to help reduce discomfort during the season
- Using a vacuum cleaner at home frequently can reduce a load of allergens
- It’s fun to swim during summer, but ensure that you wear protective glasses. Also be sure of the cleanliness and appropriate level of chlorination of water.
- Dry eye: Due to hot and dry climate, the tear film on the eye gets evaporated faster, causing a burning sensation and irritation in the eyes. This becomes more prominent in patients who already have a problem of dry eye. Instillation of artificial lubricating eye drops, avoiding air conditioning, etc help reduce the discomfort.
- UV protection: Heavy dose of ultraviolet rays during summer can be harmful to the eyes in several ways. These can lead to the formation of pterygium (a layer) on the surface of the eye, cataract, retina problems etc.
The following tips may help:
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight unless essential, during peak time of heat i.e. 10am to 2pm when the UV rays are at their strongest
- To use appropriate sunglasses which block UV rays:
One should not get fooled by the color or the cost of the lenses, but look for a certificate that states that the lenses can block at least 98% of UV rays. Ideally, these glasses should wrap all around the eyes so that the sunlight does not reach the eyes from the sides
- Using a hat or an umbrella when outdoors prevents direct exposure of the eyes to sunlight