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Bacterial conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye diseases and consists of inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin protective membrane that lines the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infectious conjunctivitis where the inflammation is caused by bacteria; if it is caused by a virus, however, it is referred to as viral conjunctivitis.

The most common symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis are generally:

  • swelling of the eyelids;
  • burning and redness of the eyes;
  • abundant tearing;
  • hypersensitivity to light (photophobia);
  • thick, sticky, and yellowish discharge (which can prevent easy opening of the eyes when waking up in the morning).

Symptoms usually appear in only one eye, but they can easily spread to both eyes because it is easy to cause autoinfection, transferring the infecting agent from one eye to the other by means of hands, pillowcase, tissue or towel.

The most common risk factors for bacterial conjunctivitis are contact with infected persons, sinusitis, cold, venereal diseases or contact lenses wear.

In general, if you have conjunctivitis, it is important to always follow certain precautions, such as washing your hands often, changing towels and pillowcases frequently, avoiding smoky and dusty environments, using glasses with special UV filters and avoiding touching the eye with the nozzle when instilling eye drops. It is also recommended not to use contact lenses or make-up until fully healed.

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At the first onset of symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention in order to initiate treatment immediately and avoid more serious complications.

The diagnosis of bacterial conjunctivitis is made by the doctor or ophthalmologist, following an assessment of the symptoms and the appearance of the eye.

In the case of resistant or relapsing conjunctivitis, the specialist may suggest a conjunctival swab to search for the specific agent responsible for the infection and establish a targeted therapy.


Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis usually involves the prescription of antibiotic eye drops or ointments, which may or may not be combined with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bacterial conjunctivitis has usually a short duration (it tends to resolve within 7-10 days), but symptoms may persist for a longer or shorter time, depending on the infectious agent that caused it, the timing of diagnosis and the effectiveness of treatment. 

In addition, until the disease has resolved completely, it is important to prevent cohabitants and all those with whom one comes into contact from becoming infected by washing hands often and avoiding close contact or exchanging personal items.