War Surgery and Medicine
Of 8772 ophthalmic cases seen by Coverdale by the end of 1943, 2521 required treatment for infection of some kind. There were many isolated cases of acute muco-purulent conjunctivitis with hazy corneae, but no vision was lost in these from ulceration. There was never any suggestion of an epidemic in a unit or of contagion in the ward. No case of gonococcal ophthalmia was diagnosed. Whilst trachoma was prevalent amongst the Egyptians and troops of certain Allied nations, it was found in New Zealanders only in the Maori Battalion. Eleven Maoris were repatriated on this account, and of these it may be said that no more than two or three contracted the disease in Egypt.
The older men seemed less resistant to infection for it was found that, in 35 consecutive cases of pyogenic ulceration of the cornea, the average age was 32, probably well above the average age in 2 NZEF.
Blepharitis was troublesome in Egypt and, to make frequent attendance at the RAP unnecessary, men were provided with yellow oxide ointment in tube form purchased with Red Cross funds. In Italy superficial inflammations of this type were very much less common. Chronic conjunctivitis was frequently seen, and it was page 435 difficult to determine whether glare and dust were causative or merely aggravating factors.
In all lesions of the cornea repair was slow, especially in dendritic ulcers. Recurrent ulcers were common and it was necessary to keep the eyes covered for two weeks after healing.
Intra-ocular inflammation, apart from wounds and injuries, was not very common. About 60 cases were seen of active uveitis of one kind or another, about 10 of these being due to relapsing fever.
In some cases of intra-ocular infection from wounds in Northern Italy remarkable results were obtained by instilling penicillin drops every minute or two for periods of about an hour at a time.