An EKC eye infection is an adenovirus infection also called epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. An adenovirus infection is a virus that infects membranes of the respiratory tract, which includes the eye. The EKC eye infection is a type that infects older children and adults more often than a young child. The infection is contagious and can spread to multiple people in schools and other close quarters.
Symptoms of the infection are red swollen eyes and sensitivity to bright lights. In some cases, the eyelids may also swell. The eye will often present a watery or yellow discharge that may crust the eyes closed. The eye and area around the eye will be painful. Some cases may result in vision changes, which may be severe in extreme cases. Lymph nodes will be tender in early stages of an infection.
An EKC eye infection is one in the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye caused by one or several types of adenoviruses. The virus is highly contagious through contact during the first eight days of infection. Prevention measures need to be taken during this time period. Vision may become impaired if sub-epithelial infiltrates--lesions on the cornea caused by a virus--are present in the eye, which is in the second eight days of infection. The person is no longer contagious once sub-epithelial infiltrates appear.
A keratoconjunctivitis infection is diagnosed with a biomicroscope to view follicular changes and signs. An eye swab is submitted for testing to determine which virus is present. The physician uses the results from these tests along with a physical diagnosis of symptoms to make a final diagnosis.
Medical treatment is not common with an EKC eye infection unless vision has been impaired from sub-epithelial infiltrates. Anti-viral medications are not effective in treating the infection. The infection is contagious during the first eight days, when tearing is prevalent. Treatment requires proper hygiene, including hand washing, especially after touching the eye area. Because the virus is shed during the tearing process, frequent washing of bedding and towels is needed to prevent spreading of the virus. Sunglasses assist with light sensitivity, while artificial tears and cool compresses ease the symptoms of swollen eyes.
Preventing an infection of keratoconjunctivitis involves not having contact with an infected person. The most important prevention measure is to wash hands frequently when a case of EKC eye infection is known. Never share bedding or pillows with a person who is contagious.