Acute bacterial conjunctivitis


  • Gunnar Høvding

    1. Department of Clinical Medicine, Section of Ophthalmology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
    2. Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway
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Gunnar Høvding
Department of Clinical Medicine
Section of Ophthalmology
University of Bergen
Haukeland University Hospital
N-5021 Bergen
Tel: + 47 55 97 41 08
Fax: + 47 55 97 41 43


Acute bacterial conjunctivitis is the eye disease most commonly seen by general practitioners, and is estimated to represent approximately 1% of all consultations in primary care. This article gives a review of the epidemiology, aetiology, clinical picture, complications, differential diagnoses, in vitro examinations and therapy of acute bacterial conjunctivitis. Until now, topical antibacterial therapy has generally been preferred by both physicians and patients because this will usually shorten the course of the disease slightly and allow the early readmittance of children to their kindergarten or school. Recently, several reports from primary care have confirmed the well-known clinical experience that the disorder has an excellent prognosis with a high frequency of spontaneous remission. In accordance, an expectant attitude or delayed prescription policy are now frequently strongly recommended. However, these reports also emphasize the difficulty in making a correct clinical distinction between bacterial and viral conjunctivitis. The effect of a general non-prescription attitude on transmission rates of pathogens also remains to be clarified. This must be born in mind when deciding how these patients should be handled. The socioeconomic and medical pros and cons of different treatment policies are discussed, and a highly personal view on the optimal handling strategy for these patients is also presented.