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  • Antibiotic Eye Drops

    Reviewed By Odalys Mendoza, MD
    Edited By David Turbert
    Published Mar. 08, 2022

    Eye infections cause redness, tearing and drainage. That drainage can be watery or a yellow-green pus. They can be very contagious. You may need to treat the bacterial type of eye infection with antibiotic eye drops.

    What Are Antibiotic Eye Drops?

    Antibiotic eye drops are prescribed by a doctor to treat bacterial eye infections. They work by killing the bacteria (microscopic organism) that entered the eye and caused the infection.

    What Causes Bacterial Eye Infections?

    Bacterial conjunctivitis is the most common type of bacterial eye infection. It's easily spread among children in daycare and at school.

    Contact-lens related eye infections. Sleeping in contacts and wearing dirty contacts can lead to bacterial eye infections. Use proper contact lens care to avoid infection.

    Antibiotic Eye Drops Only Treat Bacterial Eye Infections

    The medicine in antibiotic drops will not work for other types of eye infections or allergies, like:

    • Viral conjunctivitis. Antibiotic drops are ineffective in the treatment of conjunctivitis caused by a virus.
    • Allergic conjunctivitis. This irritation of the eye is not an infection. The irritation comes from an allergic reaction to something like dust, pollen, or pets. Antibiotic eye drops will not help relieve the symptoms of an eye allergy.
    • Fungal eye infections (fungal keratitis). These are very rare infections. They are usually caused by wearing contaminated contact lenses.

    While antibiotic eye drops don't help these conditions, other eye drops or treatment may be needed.

    When to see a doctor for an eye infection

    If you think you have any type of eye infection, see a doctor. They can see if you need antibiotic eye drops or other treatment.

    Symptoms of eye infection include:

    For antibiotic eye drops to work best:

    Antibiotic eye drops usually improve symptoms after three days. Call your doctor if your symptoms don't go away.

    Things to remember about antibiotic eye drops:

    • Don’t use anyone else’s prescription.
    • Take the full course, don’t stop early/without consulting your doctor, even if things seem better.
    • Don’t keep unused prescriptions around to use later.