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What Is Bacterial Conjunctivitis?

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 23, 2022 12:00:00 PM / by Calvin Leong

MBlog - What Is Bacterial Conjunctivitis (Blog)

Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infection of the clear membrane that covers the white part of your eye and the inner surface of your eyelid (conjunctiva).

When the blood vessels in your conjunctiva become inflamed, your eye becomes red or pink, and it will probably feel itchy. Bacterial conjunctivitis spreads very easily from person to person (is contagious). It also spreads easily from one eye to the other eye.


What Are The Causes?

This condition is caused by bacteria. You may get the infection if you come into close contact with:

  • A person who is infected with the bacteria.
  • Items that are contaminated with the bacteria, such as a face towel, contact lens solution, or eye makeup.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to develop this condition if you:

  • Are exposed to other people who have the infection.
  • Wear contact lenses.
  • Have a sinus infection.
  • Have had a recent eye injury or surgery.
  • Have a weak body defence system (immune system).
  • Have a medical condition that causes dry eyes.

place-lens-in-eyes-588319-edited


What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Thick, yellowish discharge from the eye. This may turn into a crust on the eyelid overnight and cause your eyelids to stick together.
  • Tearing or watery eyes.
  • Itchy eyes.
  • Burning feeling in your eyes.
  • Eye redness.
  • Swollen eyelids.
  • Blurred vision.


How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your symptoms and medical history. Your healthcare provider may also take a sample of discharge from your eye to find the cause of your infection. This is rarely done.

 

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated with:

  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointment to clear the infection more quickly and prevent the spread of infection to others.
  • Oral antibiotic medicines to treat infections that do not respond to drops or ointments or that last longer than 10 days.
  • Cool, wet cloths (cool compresses) placed on the eyes.
  • Artificial tears applied 2–6 times a day.

Closeup of human eye, macro mode

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take or apply your antibiotic medicine as told by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking or applying the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • Take or apply over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider.
  • Be very careful to avoid touching the edge of your eyelid with the eye-drop bottle or the ointment tube when you apply medicines to the affected eye. This will keep you from spreading the infection to your other eye or to other people.

Managing discomfort

  • Gently wipe away any drainage from your eye with a warm, wet washcloth or a cotton ball.
  • Apply a clean, cool compress to your eye for 10–20 minutes, 3–4 times a day.

General instructions

  • Do not wear contact lenses until the inflammation is gone and your healthcare provider says it is safe to wear them again. Ask your healthcare provider how to sterilise or replace your contact lenses before you use them again. Wear glasses until you can resume wearing contact lenses.
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup until the inflammation is gone. Throw away any old eye cosmetics that may be contaminated.
  • Change or wash your pillowcase every day.
  • Do not share towels or washcloths. This may spread the infection.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use paper towels to dry your hands.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Do not drive or use heavy machinery if your vision is blurred.


Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 10 days.

Get help right away if you have:

  • A fever and your symptoms suddenly get worse.
  • Severe pain when you move your eye.
  • Facial pain, redness, or swelling.
  • Sudden loss of vision.

eye test - doctor and patient with the eye chart in the background
Summary

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infection of the clear membrane that covers the white part of your eye and the inner surface of your eyelid (conjunctiva).
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis spreads very easily from person to person (is contagious).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use paper towels to dry your hands.
  • Take or apply your antibiotic medicine as told by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking or applying the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • Contact a healthcare provider if you have a fever or your symptoms do not get better after 10 days.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.


References:

Kumar NM et al: Microbial conjunctivitis. In: Bennett JE et al, eds: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Elsevier; 2020:1497-507

Lindquist TD et al: Conjunctivitis: an overview and classification. In: Mannis M et al, eds: Cornea. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2017:466-78

Rubenstein JB et al: Conjunctivitis: infectious and noninfectious. In: Yanoff M et al, eds: Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Elsevier; 2019:183-91

Yeu E et al: A review of the differential diagnosis of acute infectious conjunctivitis: implications for treatment and management. Clin Ophthalmol. 14:805-13, 2020

 

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Topics: Health, Bacterial Conjunctivitis?

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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