MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Singapore’s Conjunctivitis Cases Rocket by 75%

Conjunctivitis asia singapore

A massive upsurge in conjunctivitis cases has been recorded in Singapore this year. Compared to 2022, daily recorded cases between January and July 2023 witnessed an alarming 75% rise. 

Polyclinics noted an average of 63 acute conjunctivitis cases daily, a significant hike from the 36 daily cases reported in the same period last year.

Unleashing The Pink Eye

Commonly known as pink eye, conjunctivitis pertains to the inflammation of the conjunctiva. This clear membrane safeguards the sclera, the outer white layer of the eye. A variety of factors can trigger conjunctivitis, including viral or bacterial infections and allergies.

When Conjunctivitis Strikes

Conjunctivitis victims often suffer mild to severe eye itchiness, light sensitivity, sclera swelling, watery eyes, and eye discharge. More severe symptoms include blurred vision and pain in the infected eye. Some individuals report a jelly-like texture on the eye surface.

Contracting conjunctivitis is alarmingly easy. It primarily spreads through direct contact with an infected person or exposure to contaminated objects. For instance, if an infected individual touches their eye and then touches a doorknob, the next person to handle the doorknob could contract the infection if they touch their own eyes. Similarly, exposure to coughing or sneezing from individuals with viral upper respiratory tract infections can also transmit the disease.

The symptoms of conjunctivitis are uncomfortable and, in some cases, can cause significant distress. Initially, the individual might notice a gritty feeling in the eye, almost like a speck of dust has lodged there. This is typically followed by redness and inflammation of the eye, hence the name “pink eye”. Victims experience sensitivity to light, excessive watering, and a green or yellow discharge that can crust over during sleep as the condition worsens. Severe cases can also present with blurred vision and intense pain. These symptoms can significantly affect daily activities, hence understanding the disease and its prevention is vital.

A Notable Increase

The Straits Eye Centre’s Dr Jayant V. Iyer and Dr Jason Lee noticed a “notable increase” in patients showing conjunctivitis symptoms. They attribute this surge to increased social interactions this year, starkly contrasting the social isolation during the pandemic years.

The Perils of Infective Conjunctivitis

According to doctors, infectious conjunctivitis spreads through hand-to-eye contact after touching infected objects or individuals. Exposure to sneezing or coughing from individuals with viral upper respiratory tract infections can also transmit it. The recovery period spans three days to two weeks, posing a severe risk to productivity at work or school.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

According to Dr Ding Si Yan from the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, preventing the spread of conjunctivitis requires rigorous personal hygiene. This includes washing hands with soap and water before and after touching eyes and refraining from unnecessary eye rubbing.

Contact lens users should stop using their lenses if they suspect a conjunctivitis infection. “Contact lenses could be a source of contamination that could reinfect a recovered eye,” warned Dr Ding.

Dr Ding stressed that seeking medical attention is essential when eye redness or irritation develops. “There are different causes of conjunctivitis which may require different kinds of treatment,” he explained, adding that other eye conditions might mimic conjunctivitis symptoms, thus necessitating proper evaluation and treatment.

Conclusion

This staggering rise in conjunctivitis cases in Singapore underscores the need for heightened awareness and preventive measures. Proper hand hygiene, responsible social distancing, and prompt medical attention can help curtail the spread of this debilitating condition.

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