According to Dr. Glenda Brown, an optometrist with Caris Eye Centers in Alpharetta and incoming president of the Georgia Optometric Association, it is a brutal cold and flu season that is weakening immune systems.
"We're all exposed to viruses and bacteria, and if our immunity is down, we can't fight it off," she
Since the flu season began, Brown
practice has seen a 30 percent increase in pinkeye diagnoses - from 222 patients last year to 289 so far this year.
"That's huge," she
But be careful about trying to self-diagnose, Brown
"There are many other eye problems that mimic pinkeye, and so a lot of eye conditions that patients will refer to as pinkeye are in fact not conjunctivitis," she
"We get twice as many people who call thinking they have it, when they actually have something else.
But the only way to be sure is to see an eye doctor who can evaluate you with a slit lamp bio-microscope, make the proper diagnosis and prescribe a course of treatment."
While conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, Brown
said that some forms can be highly contagious and develop into a more serious problem, especially if misdiagnosed and treated inappropriately.
"Many people think it goes away on its own, and often parents don't understand the damage it can do," said Brown
"One of my patients recently diagnosed with EKC, epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, was home in bed for a whole week," Brown
EKC is a highly contagious form of conjunctivitis often found in emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, camps and child-care centers.
said Georgia's optometrists are working to educate consumers about the many types of conjunctivitis.