PDF Pink Eye in Newborns
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Pink Eye in Newborns
What is pink eye?
Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the white of the eye. The affected eyes may be painful, itchy or burning. The eyes may tear or have a discharge that crusts during sleep causing the eyes to be "stuck shut" in the morning.
How is pink eye diagnosed?
A health care provider can diagnose conjunctivitis with an eye examination. In some cases, the type of conjunctivitis can be determined by assessing the person's signs, symptoms, and recent health history. Most cases resolve with time, and there is usually no need for treatment or laboratory tests.
Can newborns get pink eye?
Newborns can develop pink eye, which is
called neonatal conjunctivitis. Common
symptoms include eye discharge and
puffy, red eyelids within one day to two
weeks after birth.
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, can
Newborn conjunctivitis may be caused by infection, irritation, or a blocked tear
cause redness, itching, and tearing.
duct. A mother can pass on infectious conjunctivitis to her newborn during
childbirth, even if she has no symptoms herself, because she may carry bacteria
or viruses in the birth canal. When caused by an infection, neonatal
conjunctivitis can be very serious. The most common types of neonatal
- 1 -
Chlamydial conjunctivitis can cause swelling of the eyelids with purulent (pus) discharge. Symptoms often appear 5-12 days after birth but may present at any time during the first month of life.
Gonococcal conjunctivitis causes discharge and swelling of eyelids, which may appear 2-4 days after birth.
Chemical conjunctivitis can be caused by eye drops or ointment given to newborns to help prevent bacterial eye infections. Symptoms include red eyes and eyelid swelling, and usually resolve in 24-36 hours. Most hospitals are required by state law to put drops or ointment in a newborn's eyes to prevent disease. The benefits of preventing a more serious type of conjunctivitis are thought to outweigh the risks of chemical conjunctivitis.
Other bacteria and viruses can also cause conjunctivitis in a newborn. Bacteria that normally live in a woman's vagina and that are not sexually transmitted can cause neonatal conjunctivitis. The viruses that cause genital and oral herpes can also cause neonatal conjunctivitis and severe eye damage. Such viruses may be passed to the baby during childbirth.
Blocked tear ducts may cause conjunctivitis.
How is pink eye treated in newborns?
Bacterial conjunctivitis may be treated with topical antibiotic eye drops and ointments, oral antibiotics, or intravenous (given through a vein) antibiotics. A combination of topical and oral, or topical and intravenous treatments are sometimes used at the same time. A saline solution may be prescribed for rinsing the baby's eye(s) to remove pus, if necessary. Chlamydial conjunctivitis in newborns is usually treated with oral
antibiotics such as erythromycin. Parents are usually treated as well. Gonococcal conjunctivitis in newborns is usually treated with intravenous
antibiotics. If untreated, this condition can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness. Other types of bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments. A warm compress to the eye may also help relieve swelling and irritation. Chemical Conjunctivitis usually resolves in 24-36 hours without treatment.
Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases
Pink Eye in Newborns - 2 -
If the cause of the pink eye are blocked tear ducts. A gentle warm massage between the eye and nasal area can help. If the blocked tear duct is not cleared by 1 year of age, your child may need surgery.
Disclaimer: This document contains information and/or instructional materials developed by the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) for the typical patient with your condition.
It may include links to online content that was not created by UMHS and for which UMHS does not assume responsibility. It does not replace medical advice from your health care provider because your experience may differ from that of the typical patient. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about this document, your condition or your
Adapted from: National Eye Institute. Facts About Pink Eye.
Patient Education by University of Michigan Health System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Last Revised 04/2016
Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases
Pink Eye in Newborns - 3 -
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