What are the risk factors for bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye)?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: Karen K Yeung, OD, FAAO; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Bacterial conjunctivitis most often occurs in otherwise healthy individuals. Risk factors include exposure to infected individuals, fomite contact (eg, towels, napkins, pillow cases, slit-lamp chin rests and handles), contact lens wear, sinusitis, immunodeficiency states, prior ocular disease, trauma, and exposure to agents of sexually transmitted disease at birth.

Contact lens use is commonplace and thus deserves special consideration. It is known that contact lens wear, especially sleeping while wearing the lenses, is a common risk factor for bacterial corneal infection, especially in developed countries where contact lens use is more prevalent. [9] Risks for bacterial corneal infection in contact lens wearers are also known to increase with improperly maintaining contact lens integrity and contact lens case hygiene, failing to discard the contact lenses in a timely manner, and exposing the contact lenses to water (eg, swimming, showering, tap water). Allergic conjunctivitis in contact lens users is also common, and differentiation is important for appropriate treatment. It is usually prudent to treat suspected bacterial conjunctivitis in contact lens users, including discontinuing use of lenses and prescribing topical antibiotics.

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