Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Seasonal ailment brings red-eyed hell for young

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Spring is here, bringing cheer and short sleeves to most and seasonal conjunctivitis to an unfortunate minority. Despite the misery red and itchy eyes can bring, your mom is right -- don't rub your eyes.

According to Wanfang Hospital's records, one in 10 patients in its optometry department is there because of seasonal conjunctivitis, said Chien-liang Wu (吳建良), chief of optometry at Wanfang hospital. Of those patients, 60 percent suffered from the complaint on a chronic basis, going to the doctors for itchy, red eyes for at least three years.

Wu said that although seasonal conjunctivitis is a common complaint, it should not be dismissed as an unimportant ailment.

"I have seen kids who have rubbed their eyes until they become swollen, like lychees," said Wu. "But what's more dangerous is chronic eye-rubbing, which can eventually lead to irreversible damage to the cornea."

According to Wu, the reason seasonal conjunctivitis occurs in spring and fall months is the presence of flower pollen in the spring and grass pollen in the fall.

However, there are many other sources of allergens that could irritate eyes all year round, such as dust, smoke, dust mites, animal dander and even contact lenses.

Unlike many eye ailments, seasonal conjunctivitis tends to strike the young, with 70 percent of Wanfang's patients under the age of 40. There are three treatments to alleviate the symptoms, although none offer a complete cure to the condition -- anti-histamines, vasoconstrictors and steroids.

However, Wu warned those suffering from seasonal conjunctivitis to check in with medical professionals on a regular basis as long-term use of some of those remedies can have side-effects such as glaucoma which can result from long-term steroid use.

As for a longer-term solution, Wu recommends strengthening one's immune system with exercise, keeping one's surroundings spotless ... and saying goodbye to Fluffy and Fido.

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