Bacterial conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane covering the eyeball and the inside of both eyelids caused by some bacteria. This is generally a self-limited disease although it may sometimes point to the presence of some more serious systemic diseases.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis Clinical Characteristics
The infection is usually reported in otherwise healthy individuals. Only in case of elderly patients there may be some weakening of the immune system. Also, since sometimes bacterial conjunctivitis may be associated with sexually transmitted diseases, patients should be thoroughly examined regarding these infections. This particularly refers to conjunctivitis caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia etc.
Doctors pay close attention to all data patients provide with including the onset of the condition as well as all complaints, symptoms and signs.
Hyperemia (red eye), irritation and watering of the affected eye are characteristics of bacterial conjunctivitis but these are also found in case of conjunctivitis triggered by other infective agents, allergy or irritants. The pupils are supposed to react normally while the patient is being examined.
Furthermore, patients may report grittiness and stingy, opaque, greyish or yellowish discharge coming from the infected eye. Discharge is blamed for 'sticky' eye. Such patients have problem in the morning when trying to open the affected eye. Crusting of the eye may occur as well. The affected eye can be also very painful.
It is essential to remember than not all infective agents will cause discharge from the eye. For instance, there is no discharge and crusting in case of Chlamydial or Moraxella conjunctivitis.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis Medical Approach and Treatment
The presence of bacteria can be only confirmed with cultures. Doctors take sample of the pus or discharge and sends it for a laboratory examination.
The cornerstone of treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis are antibiotics. These are most commonly administered topically. Systemic antibiotics are required if the infection is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia.
Some patients with severe infection need to be hospitalized. For instance, hospitalization would be appropriate for patients in whom the cornea cannot be visualized or there is presence of a corneal ulceration.
Apart from topical or systemic antibiotics, patients are also due to follow doctor's orders and maintain impeccable hygiene of the infected eye.
Patients are supposed to finish the entire course of prescribed antibiotics in order for bacteria to be completely eradicated. If one has started with one antibiotic, and symptoms/signs of infection linger, he/she will be prescribed other antibiotic instead.
All in all, bacterial conjunctivitis is treatable and curable condition which, in rather rare cases, may cause some complications.