bacterial conjunctivitis

This is an infection in the eye involving the conjunctiva skin (the white of the eye).  When it comes to conjunctivitis (also known as ‘pink eye’) it is often hard to determine the exact cause of an eye infection … be it allergic, viral, or bacterial. Symptoms and presentation can give us clues, however.  Bacterial infections typically involve only one eye and cause a purulent (pus) discharge. This discharge can be so bad that the eyelashes glue themselves shut in the morning. Treatment is with topical antibiotics. Mild to moderate cases may be amenable to ointments such as erythromycin, while severe cases may require multiple antibiotics. I also recommend people maintain good eyelid hygiene, cleaning the debris of their eyelashes with warm soapy water a few times a day (see lid scrubs).  Also, wash your hands frequently as this eye infection could be contagious, though not nearly as contagious as viral conjunctivitis.  As long as the vision is unaffected, bacterial conjunctivitis is rarely serious. Any red eye, however, needs to be evaluated to rule out more serious conditions like a corneal ulcer or uveitis.

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Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:

1 COMMENT

  1. Most people assume their eye redness is from a bacterial infection. However, most cases of “pink eye” are viral (especially in adults).

    It is hard to tell the definite cause of redness. I tend to err on caution and treat with an antibiotic when unsure.

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