Can Antibiotics be used to treat pink eye?

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Written By DerrickCalvert

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Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) is a common condition that can lead to eye redness, itching and even eye discharge.

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There are many types of pink eyes. The treatment you receive will depend on the type of pink eye. Antibiotics are one way to treat pink eye bacterial infections.

However, antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses. This includes viral pinkeye.

It is possible to get pink eye from bacteria, viruses or allergies. Usually, it will disappear on its own in 2 weeks.

Do you need antibiotics to treat pinkeye?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the hallmark symptom of bacterial red eye is a greenish discharge which lasts throughout the day.

You may have bacterial rose eye if you are experiencing redness, itching, and a lot of other symptoms. Although it is not as common as viral pinkeye, this type of pinkeye is quite common.

The treatment of pink eye due to bacterial infection can be done with antibiotics. Even if bacteria is causing pink eye, the condition will usually resolve itself within a few days.

Doctors don’t always prescribe antibiotics immediately for bacterial pinkeye.

  • You have a weak immune system as a result of another health condition
  • Your symptoms are severe
  • Your symptoms persist for more than a week
  • Some schools require that employees and children with pink eyes be treated before they are allowed to return.
  • Different types of antibiotics to treat bacterial pinkeye
  • Eye drops are the most common form of antibiotics for pinkeye. These medications can only be prescribed.
  • An analysis of 2010 studies showed that antibiotic choice often doesn’t matter. All have the same effectiveness.

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Here are some types of antibiotics your doctor might prescribe


The antibiotic is available as a topical cream or solution. You can use it once every two hours or less until the infection clears. You will be given specific instructions by your doctor.

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone-antimicrobial category. It is also considered broad spectrum. It can be used to treat both Gram-positive as well as Gram-negative bacterial infections.

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Tobramycin eye drops should be taken every four hours for a period of 5 to 7 days.

Tobramycin is an aminoglycoside antibiotic. It is used to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections.


Erythromycin, a prescription antibiotic cream, is applied to the eyelids in a thin strip. For the first few minutes, it may cause vision blurring.


It is an antibiotic eye drops that can be used up to four times daily in the affected eye. It is a fluoroquinolone-based antibiotic and has broad spectrum properties.

Possible side effects of antibiotics for pink eyes

Side effects can occur when antibiotics are used to treat pink eye. These side effects may include:

  • Stinging
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness

These side effects are similar to pink eye symptoms, so it may be difficult to determine if your treatment is working.

  • Initial treatment for pink eyes
  • You can often treat pinkeye yourself with home remedies.
  • You can treat pink eye symptoms by applying artificial tears over-the-counter when you first feel itchy and dry.

Apply a cool, clean compress to your eye if it persists.

Pink eye can be contagious. Avoid sharing objects with your eyes that may have come in contact with them.

  • Towels
  • Makeup
  • Pillows
  • sunglasses
  • Bett sheets

Always wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes. This will help to prevent the infection from spreading to other eyes or to your own eye.

Viral pink eye treatment

There are very few treatment options available for viral pinkeye. It will usually resolve on its own. The symptoms will usually resolve within one week.

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  • You can treat viral pinkeye symptoms with anti-inflammatory eye drops and artificial tears.
  • If your eyes are hurting, you can also use an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing severe eye pain.