Can Monkeypox Cause Conjunctivitis?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, up to 30% of monkeypox cases presented pink eye or conjunctivitis, although in the 2022 outbreak this proportion has been significantly reduced.
Only in very specific cases do more serious complications appear, but in case of suffering from this disease and presenting visual pain or reduced vision, it is important to visit the ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a zoonosis (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans) that produces symptoms similar to smallpox , but less severe, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and skin rash.
Most affected people recover within 2 to 4 weeks. The most serious cases usually occur in boys and girls, with a fatality rate of less than 10%.
Smallpox was eradicated in 1980. In 1970 the first patient infected with monkeypox was registered, but it has not been until 2022, due to the increase in cases worldwide, which the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Most people diagnosed with monkeypox develop symptoms one to three weeks after close contact. In general, they can suffer:
- Painful rash or irritation on the face and the rest of the body. Especially in the extremities and in the genital and/or perianal area.
- Fever, headache and nasal congestion, symptoms very similar to those of the flu.
- Swelling of the lymph nodes.
Although the monkeypox rash may have a characteristic appearance, it shares similarities with other infections such as syphilis, herpes simplex, and varicella zoster virus and may require further laboratory testing to confirm. the diagnosis.
Can it affect vision?
It is very common for people with monkeypox to develop a rash on their face. This fact increases the risk of eye problems, which is why it is important to avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes, especially if there are blisters near the eyelids. Doing so can increase your risk of conjunctivitis or other eye problems related to the disease.
Monkeypox can cause pink eye or conjunctivitis. Studies prior to 2022 indicate that up to 30% of people with monkeypox experience pink eye or conjunctivitis. Still, in the 2022 outbreak, eye problems have been much less common. A recent study shows that of the 528 people affected by the disease, only 3 developed conjunctivitis.
So far, people infected during the 2022 monkeypox outbreak have developed eye problems such as:
- Pink eye
- Swollen eyelids
- Rash near the eyelids
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Blurred vision
Can it cause blindness?
Several current studies done in the United States confirm that, although there has been an increase in cases of monkeypox, serious ocular manifestations are very rare. The virus rarely causes serious vision-threatening problems.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology , serious eye complications can include an infection of the cornea that could lead to vision loss.
Most reports of vision-compromising ocular complications occurred during earlier outbreaks in Africa.
Treatment of conjunctivitis related to monkeypox
It must be remembered that if you suffer from this infection and present visual pain or reduced vision, you must go to an ophthalmological visit as soon as possible.
At this time, no specific eye medication has been approved for this condition, but experts may use antiviral drugs, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory drugs to treat serious eye problems.
In case the symptoms are mild and without pain or blurred vision, some of the home remedies that can be applied are:
- Lubricating eye drops, artificial tears. They will help lighten some of the eye irritation and redness caused by smallpox.
- In case of eyelid inflammation, cold compresses can be applied to the eye when it closes. It is important to disinfect the compression after use so that you do not spread the infection to other people living with you.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses. It is important to use others once you have recovered from the disease.
- Stop putting on makeup until the eyes have healed.
It is very important to isolate yourself at home the moment monkeypox symptoms develop, and especially to stay until the rash has completely healed.
Other general recommendations
- Avoid sharing fabrics such as bedding, towels or clothing with other people. These tissues can spread the virus.
- Do not share cups or kitchen utensils.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands often.
- In case of caring for a person with monkeypox, it is important to put on gloves and a mask and avoid skin-to-skin contact.