What is eye flu?

What is eye flu?

The eye flu is a highly contagious viral disease of the conjunctiva caused by an infection with the so-called adenoviruses. If eye flu is suspected, a doctor should be consulted immediately since this disease is notifiable due to its high risk of infection. 

How do you get eye flu?

Infection with the pathogens of the eye flu occurs via a smear infection. The disease-causing viruses are found in the tear fluid. After the affected person has rubbed their eyes, there are two possible ways in which the pathogens can be spread in the environment:

  1. through direct physical contact, such as shaking hands
  2. indirectly by touching objects in the area, such as doorknobs or handles on public transport

Care should be taken, especially with small children, as they tend to carelessly touch all objects within their reach, which increases the risk of infection for the child.

There is also an increased risk for contact lens wearers since they regularly look at each other, and the virus can thus be transmitted.

How can I protect myself from eye flu?

Although the adenoviruses are resilient and can survive for several weeks on objects such as doorknobs, it is advisable to take hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and disinfecting to prevent eye flu infection and its spread.

It should also be noted that those affected are contagious during the incubation period, which lasts up to twelve days, i.e. before the onset of symptoms.

What are the signs of eye flu?

The symptoms of acute eye flu are similar to those of classic conjunctivitis, making differentiation and diagnosis difficult. Typical signs include:

In addition, flu-like symptoms are familiar:

It is also typical of the eye flu that the symptoms initially only appear in one eye and then spread to the other.


Diagnosis: eye flu or conjunctivitis?

The eye flu is a particularly aggressive form of conjunctivitis triggered explicitly by the adenoviruses. On the other hand, ordinary conjunctivitis can also be of bacterial origin.

Due to the similarity of the symptoms, it is often challenging for doctors to clearly distinguish the eye flu from ordinary, more harmless conjunctivitis.

Therefore, a one hundred per cent correct diagnosis can only be made by a swab from the conjunctiva. The doctor can identify the adenoviruses that cause eye flu during the subsequent swab examination.

Treatment and course of eye flu

Eye flu cannot be treated with medication. However, eye flu symptoms can be relieved with eye drops or ointments.

 In contrast to treating ordinary bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic treatment is inappropriate for eye flu. The background is that antibiotics are generally ineffective against viruses and would additionally burden the weakened body with any side effects.

Home remedies for eye flu, like conventional eye drops or ointments, can only alleviate symptoms. In any case, you should talk to your doctor before attempting home remedies to relieve symptoms yourself. Common home remedies for eye flu are drinking cistus tea and putting cool clothes on the eye area.

Duration and sick leave

The duration of eye flu can vary from 10 days to 4 weeks, after which the symptoms will go away on their own.

As a rule, the doctor will give the patient sick leave for two to three weeks. The affected person should follow the instructions of the doctor to prevent the highly contagious eye flu from spreading.


Consequences of eye flu

Slight clouding of the cornea can occur late after an eye flu. These opacities heal entirely after a few weeks. In rare cases, however, permanent cornea clouding can occur, leading to a deterioration in vision. Here, the patient is usually treated with eye drops containing cortisone.

If this treatment method remains ineffective, a laser treatment can be used, in which the corneal opacities are surgically removed.


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