What Are Antibiotic Eye Drops?

Erin J. Hill

Antibiotic eye drops are those which contain medication used to kill bacteria. They are commonly used to treat bacterial conjunctivitis, or "pink eye." These eyedrops have to be prescribed by a health care professional in many countries, so they are not always available for purchase over the counter. There are also at home antibiotic eye drops which contain natural and homeopathic ingredients that have been shown to have antimicrobial properties.

Anatomy of the human eye.
Anatomy of the human eye.

The use of antibiotic eye drops is common for those who have an eye infection. Conjunctivitis can occur when a pathogen or allergen enters the eye and leads to an infection, causing redness, swelling, and sometimes oozing or discharge. Eye drops containing an antibiotic may be used to cure conjunctivitis when it is caused by bacteria. Eye infections caused by viruses or allergens will not be successfully treated using antibiotics.

Antibiotic eye drops.
Antibiotic eye drops.

Patients with signs of conjunctivitis should speak with a doctor immediately. Antibiotic eye drops have to be prescribed by a health care professional in many areas, although over the counter eye drops may help alleviate discomfort until a doctor can be seen. Patients should follow all doctor instructions and use their eye drops for the recommended length of time to ensure that all bacteria are killed. Failure to do so could lead to another infection.

Some antibiotic eye drops can be purchased over-the-counter.
Some antibiotic eye drops can be purchased over-the-counter.

There are also antibiotic eye drops which can be purchased by consumers over the counter, although these are not considered real antibiotics. Most of them are homeopathic remedies with ingredients that have some antimicrobial properties. These can include honey, jasmine, and others. Some are sold specifically to help treat conjunctivitis, while others are meant only to help with symptoms. Even though natural eye drops are usually considered safe, it is a good idea to still have any symptoms checked by a doctor.

Some doctors may prescribe antibiotic eye drops even before the cause of symptoms is known. While medication may work for bacterial infections, there is nothing that will cure a viral infection except for the body's immune system. Allergies are also not curable, although they can be controlled. If the condition isn't caused by bacteria, there are eye drops which will help alleviate symptoms until the infection heals. Both viral and allergy-related infections will generally heal over time.

Antibiotic eye drops, which contain medication to eliminate bacteria, are used for common ailments such as conjunctivitus, or pink eye.
Antibiotic eye drops, which contain medication to eliminate bacteria, are used for common ailments such as conjunctivitus, or pink eye.

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