Most people with pinkeye get unnecessary treatment

In the journals

Published: September, 2017

If you get acute conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, you probably don't need antibiotic eye drops, suggests a study published online June 14, 2017, by Ophthalmology.

Pinkeye is caused by viral infection, allergy, or bacterial infection. Most people with pinkeye are prescribed antibiotic drops. However, a majority of cases are due to a virus or allergy, which do not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment can potentially delay healing and increase antibiotic resistance.

In the study, researchers looked at approximately 340,000 people in a large managed care network who were diagnosed with pinkeye over a 14-year period. They found that nearly 60% of these patients received antibiotics after diagnosis. Nonspecialists like family physicians and urgent care providers diagnosed more than 80% of cases and were two to three times more likely than eye specialists to prescribe antibiotic drops. The researchers speculated that these clinicians were unsure of the exact cause of the pinkeye and prescribed antibiotics "just in case."

For pinkeye that just causes redness, itching, and mild discomfort, you can keep your eye comfortable with artificial tears and warm or cold compresses until the eye heals on its own within one to two weeks. However, if you have pain or a thick eye discharge in addition to redness, or the symptoms don't improve over a few days, then it's time to see your doctor.

Image: © mirko_s/Thinkstock

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