How does the prevalence of bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye) vary by age?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: Karen K Yeung, OD, FAAO; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Age is a relevant factor in the prevalence of bacterial conjunctivitis. In the United States, bacterial conjunctivitis is more prevalent in children than in adults; 23% of cases are reported in children aged 0-2 years, 28% in children aged 3-9 years, and 13% in children aged 10-19 years. Adults account for 36% of cases. [4, 16] H influenzae is the most common pathogen in children, followed by S pneumoniae, S aureus, and Moraxella catarrhalis. In adults, S aureus, H influenzae, S pneumoniae, and Moraxella species are the most common pathogens; MRSA prevalence has been increasing in nursing homes.

The practitioner must be vigilant in considering sexually transmitted diseases caused by N gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia in sexually active age groups and in newborns who may have been exposed during birth. Tactful and confidential history taking are a necessary skill in order to avoid violating HIPAA regulations. In an ethical or medicolegal situation, obtaining advice from administration and/or colleagues is recommended.

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