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Getting to Know the Various Aspects of Antibiotic Eyedrops

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Antibiotic eyedrops are medications that may be used to treat various bacterial infections of the eyes. Read about when and how to use eye drops.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shikha Gupta

Published At June 22, 2023
Reviewed AtJune 23, 2023

What Is an Antibiotic Eyedrop?

Antibiotic eye drops are medications in liquid form that the doctor may prescribe to treat an anti-bacterial infection. These drugs in a liquid consistency may be known as topical medications in medical terminologies. They are referred to as topical medicines as it does not enter one's blood circulation. These drugs help treat localized eye infections. Once applied to the affected surface, they start acting on the infection immediately. These antibiotic eye drops come in small bottles with a tight cap and a minute hole in the top for the liquid to pass. Once this medicated liquid comes in contact with the eye's surface, it penetrates the multiple tissue layers of the eye and starts working on the infection. An antibiotic eyedrop, in most cases, provides immediate relief from the condition and aids in a quick resolution. Most antibiotic eye drops are safe and have minimal side effects. At times the eyedrop may cause blurring of vision or irritation immediately after its use, but this should subside within a few minutes. However, if the symptoms persist, it is better to get a medical opinion.

When to Use Antibiotic Eyedrops?

An antibiotic eyedrop can be used to treat various eye bacterial infections. The bacterial infection that is to be treated depends on the infection and its symptoms. The very conditions that may require antibiotic eye drops may include:

  1. Bacterial Conjunctivitis: It is also known as pink eye. It is a bacterial infection of the eye. An antibiotic eye drop may be prescribed to treat this condition. However, this eyedrop may not effectively treat other forms of conjunctivitis, such as viral or fungal. Hence a physician's opinion should always be obtained before taking any eyedrops.

  2. Keratitis: Keratitis is also an infectious condition of the eye that may be caused due to contact lenses. Not removing the contact lenses while sleeping or not following hand hygiene while using contact lenses can lead to bacterial infection. An eyedrop may be pretty effective in this condition.

  3. Blepharitis: Blepharitis is an infectious condition of the eyelashes. This condition may be caused due to blocked eyelash follicles that may later get infected by bacteria.

  4. Uveitis: Uveitis is an infective condition of the middle layer of the eye. An eyedrop may be useful in reducing the symptoms and ultimately helpful in curing the condition.

When to Get Medical Attention for an Eye Infection?

It is advisable to get a medical opinion in case of an eye infection. The various symptoms of eye infection include:

  1. Eye Irritation: Eye irritation or itching can be associated with an eye infection.

  2. Watery Eyes: There may be moderate to excessive watering of the eyes in case of an eye infection.

  3. Redness of the Eye: The eyes may appear red in case of an infection. This is a characteristic symptom of conjunctivitis. Bacterial conjunctivitis may also be known as pink eye.

  4. Blurry Vision: There may be blurring of vision due to the infection of the eye.

  5. Painful Eyes: The eyes may be painful when there may be an infection.

  6. Photophobia: The eyes may be sensitive to light when there is an infection of the eyes.

What Are the Various Drugs That May Be Used in Antibiotic Eyedrops?

Various antibiotic drugs can be formulated in a liquid form and can be prescribed as an eyedrop. The medications can be used alone or in combination. The various antibiotics that can be used as eye drops are:

  1. Bacitracin: This drug can be used to treat bacterial infections in adults. This drug is a polypeptide.

  2. Erythromycin: This belongs to the macrolide group of antibiotics. This drug treats a variety of bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis. It is even safe for neonates.

  3. Gentamicin: This belongs to the aminoglycoside group of antibiotics. This treats most bacterial eye infections.

  4. Ciprofloxacin: This belongs to the quinolones group of antibiotics. Though very effective, this may not be suitable for children less than two years of age.

  5. Tobramycin: This also belongs to the group of aminoglycosides. This, however, can be safely prescribed to children as well.

  6. Neosporin and Polysporin: These are combinations of antibiotics that may be prescribed to treat bacterial eye infections.

How to Use Antibiotic Eye Drops?

Antibiotic eye drops should be used as prescribed and instructed by the doctor or eye specialist (ophthalmologist). One can use the eye drop by themselves or, if required, or even take help from others if needed. Here are the steps on how to use eye drops-

  1. Reading Doctor's Instructions: The dosage and the timing of the medication play a pivotal role in treating the condition. The prescribed dosage of the drug should be taken at the specified interval to reap maximum benefits. In case of using more than one medication (eye drops) simultaneously, an interval of five minutes should be given between the two medications.

  2. Preparations Before Taking Drops: It is essential to wash hands before using the eye drops to prevent contamination of the medication. After opening the bottle's cap, it is essential to avoid touching the tip of the dropper. Coming in contact with the tip may cause contamination.

  3. Placing the Drops in the Eyes: Tilting the head backward can help take the medications. With the help of fingertips, one should gently retract the lower eyelid. The drops should be placed in the lower eyelids. Caution should be taken to avoid contact between the nib and the eyes to prevent contamination. If required the drops should be applied to the other eye as well. After dropping the drops, the eyes should be closed to enable the absorption of the drops.

  4. After the Application of Drops: After the application of the drops, the hands should be washed again with soap and water to prevent cross-infection. The nib of the dropper should be cleaned with tissue paper or baby wipes to prevent contamination.

How to Use Antibiotic Eyedrops in Children?

Eye drops in children should be used only after being prescribed by a pediatrician or an eye specialist. The use of eye drops in children can be quite challenging as it is difficult to obtain their cooperation. The help of another individual can be taken. In the case of older children, assurance can be given that the process will not hurt. In the case of infants or smaller children, they can be wrapped in a blanket to limit their movements. It is important to wash hands with soap and water before and after application. Care should be taken to prevent the child from rubbing their eyes after the application of the drops.

What Are the Precautions to Be Taken?

It is better to take certain precautions before the application of eye drops to have the best outcome. Some of the precautions to be taken include:

  1. Contact Lenses: It is better to avoid using contact lenses during the treatment. Contact lenses by themselves can act as the causative factor for various bacterial infections.

  2. Sharing of Medications: Sharing of medications should be avoided. This prevents infection from spreading from one person to the other.

  3. Seal and Expiry Date: It is important to check the expiry date and the seal of the medication before purchasing it.

  4. Storage of the Eyedrops: The storage of the eye drops should be done as instructed by one’s physician. Some doctors may prefer the eye drops to be left in the refrigerator. Care should be taken to follow such instructions.

  5. Reactions in the Eye: In case of reactions in the eye following the usage of drops such as burning or blurring which do not subside. Medical attention should be obtained at the earliest.


Antibiotic eye drops come in very handy in treating various bacterial infections of the eyes. They have quick action as they act directly on the site of infection without any side effects. If used properly as instructed they aid in the quick resolution of the condition. Hence, in case of any infection of the eye, antibiotic eye drops prove to be a first line of treatment to prevent further complications and spread of infection.

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Dr. Shikha Gupta
Dr. Shikha Gupta

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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