High humidity levels have led to a spurt in cases of conjunctivitis, a condition also referred to as ‘pink eye’. It is an infection of the eye that causes redness and itching in the outer surface. In rare cases, doctors say, the infection can involve the cornea, which can be serious.

“Most cases of conjunctivitis are caused by viruses. They are milder in nature and the symptoms tend to go away on their own in about a week.However, we see many patients suffering from secondary infection involving the cornea that causes prolonged problems,” Dr A K Grover, chairman of Vision Eye Centres, said. He added that maintaining hand hygiene, avoiding sharing of hand towels or eye cosmetics with infected individuals could help reduce the spread of the disease. Swimming pools are also a source of the spread of the virus.

According to Dr Uma Malliah, senior consultant, ophthalmology at Apollo Hospital, conjunctivitis is common during monsoon and change of season.

Here's why you should take your pink eye seriously (Shutterstock)

“Bacterial infection causes a thick discharge from the eyes, whereas in viral infection, it is watery. Pain, redness and other symptoms are also severe in case of infection caused by bacteria compared to the virus. It should not be taken lightly,” Dr Malliah added.

Dr Parul Sharma, associate direction and head of ophthalmology at Max Saket, said treatment of conjunctivitis was mostly symptomatic. “We advise cold compress, tear substitutes and, in some cases, antibiotic eye drops to prevent severity due to secondary infections,” she said.

However, if the symptoms persist and there is blurring of vision, antibiotic therapy may be needed. A sharp, deep pain in the eyes and sensitivity to light in patients suffering from eye flu should not be ignored.One must consult an eye specialist if symptoms persist for over a week, doctors say. However, research shows over-prescription of antibiotic eye drops is fraught with risks, such as changes to the ocular flora and increased presence of multi-drug resistant strains.