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How do you treat bacterial conjunctivitis?

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It is possible to treat bacterial conjunctivitis with antibiotic medications that reduce the spread of infection and shorten the length of illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment or antibiotic eye drops, and patients can also use cold compresses and moisturizing eye drops to reduce inflammation and dryness.

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More than 50 percent of bacterial conjunctivitis cases clear up without any treatment within one to two weeks, according to Mayo Clinic. However, antibiotics speed the healing process, alleviating symptoms within several days of treatment. Patients should follow their doctor's instructions to finish the entire course of antibiotics, preventing the infection from recurring. After application, antibiotic ointments may cause blurred vision for up to 20 minutes.

Artificial tears may provide symptom relief, but patients should avoid drops for red eye, as they can cause rebound redness after a short time, warns Mayo Clinic. Patients should avoid wearing contact lenses until the infection clears up, and should ask a doctor whether they need to throw away their disposable lenses or lens case. Patients can prepare a cool water compress by soaking a clean cloth in water, wringing it out and placing it on closed eyes for several minutes. The same part of the cloth should never touch both eyes if only one eye is infected, as this can spread the bacteria to the healthy eye.

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