Newborn Conjunctivitis

(Ophthalmia Neonatorum; Neonatal Conjunctivitis)

Definition

Newborn conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the surface or covering of the eye. It generally occurs in the first month of life.
Conjunctivitis
Inflamed conjunctiva
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Causes

The cause of the conjunctivitis may be an irritation in the eye or a blocked tear duct. In some cases, the irritation may be from the antibiotic given after delivery.Bacteria or viruses can also cause an infection in the eye. The most common types of organism that cause infection in the infant’s eye come from the mother’s birth canal, and are passed to the infant during delivery. These infections can include:
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—The most common bacteria passed to infants during delivery are due to STDs from the mother’s birth canal. If untreated, many of these infections can cause serious damage to the infant’s eye. STDs that can cause eye damage include:
  • Skin bacteria
  • Bacteria from the mother’s gastrointestinal tract

Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for developing newborn conjunctivitis is a maternal infection or STD at the time of delivery. The mother may not have any symptoms during delivery, but may still be able to transmit the infection. If you are pregnant, it is important to discuss any STDs that you have or had in the past. You and your doctor can develop a plan to protect your baby from infections during delivery.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are redness and swelling of the conjunctiva in the newborn. Newborn conjunctivitis may also cause:
  • Drainage and discharge from the eye—it may be watery or thick and pus-like
  • Swollen eyelids

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