Eye ointments can be used to treat or prevent different eye infections. The most common use of antibiotic eye ointments is to prevent ophthalmia neonatorum, which is an eye infection that can affect newborns. Ophthalmia neonatorum affects babies who are born to mothers who are infected with chlamydia. As the baby passes through the birth canal, their eyes can become infected with Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is the bacteria that causes gonorrhea.
If a woman doesn't get screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), she might not know that she has contracted gonorrhea. Babies with this illness might not show any symptoms at birth. Symptoms can develop up to 5 days after delivery. Their eyes will become red, puffy, and pussy. Ophthalmia neonatorum requires intravenous antibiotics and a longer hospital stay, and it can result in permanent eye damage and blindness.
To prevent this disease, an ophthalmic ointment is applied to every newborn's eyes. This ointment contains the antibiotic erythromycin. A doctor or nurse will apply a thin strip of ointment under each of your baby's lower eyelids. The ointment will cause their vision to be blurry for a few minutes, but it doesn't hurt or burn. Many physician and health organizations recommend applying eye ointment to all newborns.
Gonorrhea isn't the only bacteria that can cause eye infections in babies and children. Other causes of neonatal ophthalmia include chlamydia, bacteria such as staphylococcus and streptococcus, and viral infections like herpes. While most other microorganisms only cause a mild infection, neonatal conjunctivitis caused by gonorrhea can have serious consequences. Ophthalmia neonatorum affects 30 to 50 percent of children born to mothers with gonorrhea if preventative measures aren't taken during birth.
It's also important to keep in mind that newborns aren't the only ones who can get an eye infection. Toddlers and older children can also suffer from eye infections. Conjunctivitis in children is usually caused by viruses or allergies; however, they can also be caused by bacteria. If your child has swollen eyelids, red eyes, and yellowish discharge, they have probably contracted bacterial conjunctivitis. Their pediatrician can prescribe an antibiotic eye ointment to treat it.