According to a recent study in the journal Ophthamology, most cases of conjunctivitis, that very common, very catchy eye problem we all refer to as pinkeye, do not require antibiotic eye drops, which, however, are still the mainstay of treatment for this condition.
In fact, antibiotic drops, which according to the information in this study of 340,000 people diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis, are still given for 60 % of pinkeye cases, are not only unnecessary but they can even cause some harm.
Why are antibiotics not needed for pinkeye?
The usual reason: the vast majority of cases of acute conjunctivitis are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and as we should all have learned by now, antibiotics are not only useless for viral infections, they are often harmful.
Or as the authors of the study put it: “These potentially harmful practices (i.e. giving antibiotics) may prolong infection duration, may promote antibiotic resistance, and increase costs.”
This is a recurrent bottom line but needs frequent repeating: when you are offered an antibiotic prescription for any problem, always ask at least these two questions.
- How do you know this is a bacterial infection and not a viral one?
- If we’re indeed sure that this is a bacterial infection, then is this the weakest antibiotic that will do the trick?