Newborn Conjunctivitis

(Ophthalmia Neonatorum; Neonatal Conjunctivitis)

Definition

Ophthalmia neonatorum is conjunctivitis that occurs in a newborn. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the surface or covering of the eye. Ophthalmia neonatorum occurs in the first month of life.The earlier ophthalmia neonatorum is identified, the better the outcomes.
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 can also cause an infection in the eye. The most common types of bacteria 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 ophthalmia neonatorum is a maternal infection or STD at the time of delivery. The mother may not have any symptoms during delivery and 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.

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