What Is Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?
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Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications

Published on Dec 26, 2022   -  4 min read


Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is caused by adenovirus and is highly contagious. It affects the cornea and conjunctiva of the eyes. Read this article to know more.


The eyes are the body's most sensitive organ and are prone to more infections due to their environmental exposure. The eyes are made up of several layers, like conjunctiva being the outermost, followed by the cornea, iris, lens, and retina. Eyes are prone to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections and injuries from accidents and chemicals.

The conjunctiva is a protective layer of the eyelid, which generally protects the eyes from all sorts of infections and injuries. The cornea is the transparent or clear layer of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber parts of the eye.

What Is Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a type of viral infection affecting the conjunctival layer of the eye greatly. It causes inflammation of the conjunctival layer and is known as conjunctivitis. In the case of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, the corneal layer will have inflammation to some extent which is known as keratitis. The presence of keratitis will make the diagnosis much easier to distinguish from general conjunctivitis. Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a contagious infection, and a group of viruses called adenovirus causes it. Specifically, adenoviruses of serotypes 8, 19, and 37 are responsible for epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. These adenoviruses affect the eyes and can damage the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system.

What Are the Various Signs and Symptoms of Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

The most common signs and symptoms of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis are,

  • Redness of the eyes.

  • Photophobia or sensitivity to the light.

  • Epiphora - It is a condition characterized by excessive tearing of the eyes or there is an abnormal flow of tears.

  • Chemosis - It is an inflammatory condition of the eyes which is characterized by the presence of fluid and will be swollen (edematous).

  • Swollen eyelids.

  • Loss of vision or blurred vision.

  • Feeling of a presence of foreign body sensation in the eyes.

  • Discharge can be noticed from the eyes. It can be either white or yellow.

  • An itchy feeling can be felt in the affected eyes.

  • Increased crusting of the eyes can be seen, especially in the morning while waking up from sleep.

  • Other signs include fever, headache, and weakness or tiredness.

How Does Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis Get Transmitted?

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is caused by a group of viruses known as adenoviruses. These viruses are found to survive in an environment that is outside the body for up to 30 days. The transmission of this virus can happen in various ways, and they are as follows.

  • The infection can spread through the saliva droplets that come out while sneezing or coughing, especially in closed spaces.

  • It can also spread through contact with nasal secretions and teardrops containing viruses.

  • It can spread by using the items used by an affected individual. For example, using eye makeup products like brushes, curlers, mascara, etc.

  • Touching the infected surfaces with bare hands and touching the eyes without washing is the commonest source of transmitting the infection.

  • Using the sunglasses the infected individual uses is also a source of infection.

How to Diagnose Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

The diagnostic process for epidemic keratoconjunctivitis starts with a simple eye examination by an eye specialist doctor known as an ophthalmologist. A series of eye tests will follow this to arrive at the diagnosis precisely.

  • Slit Lamp Examination - Slit lamp microscope is a specialized microscope fitted with a lamp that enables the doctor to study the inner contents of the eyes. This test will let the doctor find corneal opacities and subepithelial infiltrates.

  • Adenovirus Swab Test - This is the most preferred diagnostic test to detect epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. It can give results in a short time. The swab will be processed for testing. Doctors may use a numbing gel before taking a swab.

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction is a highly accurate diagnostic test for various infectious diseases. Doctors may either use an adenovirus swab test or the polymerase chain reaction.

  • Doctors will also look for swollen lymph nodes in the neck region.

What Are the Common Complications of Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

  • Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis generally causes corneal opacities. If the condition is left untreated, the corneal opacities may result in permanent cornea scarring, resulting in vision loss or blurred vision.

  • If the condition is left untreated, the junction where the eyeball and eyelid meet may scar and cause disturbances in blinking and tearing and may result in dry eye syndrome.

How to Treat Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

There are no specific medications available for treating epidemic keratoconjunctivitis at present. Also, the condition usually resolves on its own. But in certain cases, the treatment will be focused on resolving the signs and symptoms.

  • To ease the swollen eyes, cold compresses are recommended.

  • To keep the eyes hydrated, artificial tears are prescribed.

  • To heal eye redness, vasoconstrictor eye drops are prescribed.

  • Corticosteroid eye drops are used to reduce inflammatory conditions.

  • Povidone-iodine drops are also found to be effective in treating epidemic keratoconjunctivitis.


Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a highly contagious viral infection; thus, prevention is the best cure. Good hygiene has to be maintained to stay away from this infection. Touching the eyes with bare hands and all the family members using the same towels is the biggest crime. Though it resolves on its own, it is better to get a doctor’s opinion on it to know the root cause of it, and thus, future reinfections can be prevented. Getting a doctor’s advice will also help prevent the presenting condition from becoming complicated, as it can result in adverse effects like vision loss or blindness.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Percent of Conjunctivitis Is Viral?

Conjunctivitis is a disease in which the eye's conjunctiva gets inflamed. Around 75 to 80 percent of all cases of conjunctivitis are viral.


What Is the Treatment of Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

Treatment of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is mainly symptomatic (cold compresses and artificial tears). Antiviral (cidofovir) and cyclosporine eye drops were administered in some patients without definite benefit. In cases with severe membranous conjunctivitis, mild topical corticosteroids can be given.


How Do You Get Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is caused by an adenovirus group of viruses. Mostly 8, 19, and 37 serotype adenoviruses are responsible for causing epidemic keratoconjunctivitis.


What Is Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a viral infection caused by an adenovirus group of viruses. It affects the eye's conjunctiva and leads to inflammation, known as conjunctivitis. The corneal layer of the eye also gets inflamed, known as keratitis.


How Common Is Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis?

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a common type of conjunctivitis. Nearly 6 to 60 percent of cases of all infectious conjunctivitis are epidemic keratoconjunctivitis.


For How Long Is Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis Contagious?

The symptoms develop between 5 days to two weeks after exposure to the virus from an infected person or surface. People remain infectious from one or two days before the occurrence of the first symptoms until two weeks around after the symptoms develop.


How Is Keratitis Diagnosed?

Keratitis is diagnosed with the help of visual examination by a slit lamp which uses a bright light and higher magnification. A culture swab from the eyes is taken and examined.


How Is Keratitis Treated?

The treatment of keratitis can be done by prescribing-
- Antibiotics in case of bacterial keratitis.
- Biocides for parasitic keratitis.
- Antifungal for fungal keratitis.
- Antiviral for viral keratitis.


What Is Viral Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis Discharge?

Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a contagious disease that spreads from one person to another via nasal discharge, air droplets, touching the same surface as that of an infected person, etc.


Should you Stay Home if you have Adenovirus?

Adenovirus is a contagious disease that spreads from one person to another. Yes, people affected with this disease, especially children, should stay home since it is highly contagious.


Should I Be Worried About Adenovirus?

Adenovirus is a group of viruses that causes mild to severe disease. People with weak immune systems or any underlying condition should be extra careful about adenovirus since they are at higher risk.


Can Kids Go to School with Adenovirus?

Children should avoid going to school with adenovirus as the disease is contagious. They may spread the disease to other children as well.


How Does One Catch Adenovirus?

Adenovirus is caught by transmission from an infected surface or person. This transmission can be done by nasal droplets, saliva, shaking hands, or using the sunglasses of an infected person.


How Long Is a Person with Adenovirus Contagious?

Adenovirus is a disease that can spread from one person to another. The person remains contagious from one or two days before the onset of the symptoms till two weeks.

Last reviewed at:
26 Dec 2022  -  4 min read




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