What infections cause pinkeye, what are infectious pinkeye symptoms, and what are treatment options? (Part 2)
Staphylococci and Streptococci are types of bacteria that commonly cause pinkeye. Gonococci and chlamydia may also cause bacterial pinkeye. Symptoms of pinkeye caused by bacteria occur rapidly and can include
- eye pain or burning,
- a moderate to large amount of oozing or eye discharge, usually thick and yellow or greenish in color,
- swelling of the lymph nodes in front of the ears.
The discharge commonly accumulates after sleeping. Affected children may awaken with crusty eyelashes most unhappy that their "eyes are stuck shut," requiring a warm washcloth applied to the eyes to remove the discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated by repeated warm washcloths applied to the eyes (try applying these to a child's eye one eye at a time during a favorite video) and requires antibiotic eyedrops or ointment prescribed by the doctor.
Be careful not to use medication prescribed for someone else, or from an old infection, as these may be inappropriate for the current infection or may have been contaminated from other infections by accidentally touching the medicine bottle to infected areas. A safe, effective, and potentially less frightening method of putting drops into the eyes of children involves asking the child to lie down flat, with instructions to merely "close your eyes," and placing the recommended number of drops in the inner corner of the eye, next to the bridge of the nose, and letting them make a little "lake" there. When the child relaxes and opens the eyes, the medicine will flow gently into the infected mucous membranes without the need to "force open" the eyes.
When someone thinks he (or she) has bacterial conjunctivitis (bacterial pinkeye), it is very important to see a doctor immediately for several reasons. First, if the cause is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be needed to help the infection-fighting immune system to kill this infection. Types of topical ophthalmic (eye drops) antibiotics often used for pinkeye include besifloxacin (Besivance), gatifloxacin (Zymaxid), levofloxacin (Levaquin, Quixin, Iquix), moxifloxacin (Moxeza, Vigamox), tobramycin (Tobrex), ciprofloxacin (Ciloxan), erythromycin (Ilotycin), and others. Secondly, if someone is experiencing other symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, earache, etc., there is a good chance that these symptoms are caused by the same bacteria, and an oral antibiotic may also be needed to treat this infection along with the antibiotic eye drops or ointment for the eyes. Oral antibiotics are also required for some types of bacterial pinkeye. Finally, a doctor will want to exclude the possibility that the infection has spread to areas where the symptoms may not yet be recognizable.