Cases of allergic conjunctivitis have gone up in the UAE across varied age groups with children below 15 being most affected, ophthalmologists said on Wednesday.
This comes as many residents complain of red, itchy, and teary eyes, which seemingly indicate the condition.
“There’s an increase in the number of patients during the summer either with acute allergic conjunctivitis or with recurrent or chronic allergic conjunctivitis with relapse of allergic conjunctivitis, especially with adenovirus conjunctivitis,” says Dr Haitham Abdul Hafez Moued, Consultant Ophthalmology and head of the department, Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.
He adds, “There are different types of conjunctivitis: seasonal which is related to weather, and vernal conjunctivitis which affects children between the age group of 5-15.”
The weather conditions in the UAE affect the eyes in several ways, they say. “During the summer, most people tend to stay indoors. Being in air-conditioned rooms lets the eye become more dry than normal. It is because humidity inside the air-conditioned rooms is low. Due to this, the eyes do not get hydrated, and the tear film that constitutes three layers (mucus, lipid, and water) is deficient and becomes thin. But when we go out, it is hot, windy, and dusty. These environmental factors would further affect the eyes making the tear film thinner and deficient,” avers Dr Vikram Mohindra, Specialist Ophthalmology, Aster Hospital, Mankhool, Dubai.
Once this happens, the dust particles can then easily make a contact with the eyes, medics explain.
He adds, “The thinner tear film would not be able to wash them off the eyes. It is not just dust but could be pollen grains, sand, or any particle. The trees and flowers have organic dust particles -- these can cause allergies when it meets dry eyes.”
Apparently, poorly maintained air conditioning units and household dust on soft furniture are also places where these allergens can exist for long time.
Dr Mandeep Lamba, Specialist Opthalmology and Head of Retina Services with Prime Hospital says, “Since Allergic conjunctivitis is response of conjunctiva (an exposed part of eye) to any allergen, one of the most common factors is house dust mites, sand, pollens, grass, among others. It might also be associated with nasal allergies and sinusitis. It mostly happens during the spring season and summers. High humidity in summer months is an aggravating factor.”
Therefore, healthcare professionals underline affected individuals should ideally be able to recognise the source of allergens and time of allergy during a year.
Lamba adds, “A deep cleaning of home and workspace around these times help a lot. Consult with an eye doctor and rule out other associated causes like dry eye syndrome and meibomian gland disease. An eye doctor can also prescribe prophylactic eye drops used once a day to prevent aggravation of the symptoms.”
Apart from replacing allergen-harbouring items, such as pillows and carpets medical practitioners suggest some other simple solutions to prevent the condition.
Dr Mohindra elucidates, “We must ensure that the tear film is robust. One measure is to blink the eyes. Frequent blinking of the eyes is important as it would wipe off the dust and augment the tear film.
“Increased screen time also causes dryness of the eye as the rate of blinking decreases. So, it is important to blink our eyes frequently.”
He adds, “Another important factor is keeping our body hydrated. The hydration of the body affects the hydration of the eyes. So, we must keep ourselves adequately hydrated. One should drink more water and not any carbonated drinks or caffeine.”
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