A newborn with gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum.
|Classification and external resources|
Neonatal conjunctivitis, also known as ophthalmia neonatorum, is a form of conjunctivitis contracted by newborns during delivery. The baby's eyes are contaminated during passage through the birth canal from a mother infected with either Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis. Ophthalmic ointment containing 0.5% erythromycin is typically applied to the newborn's eyes within 1 hour of birth as prophylaxis against gonococcal ophthalmia. If left untreated it can cause blindness.
Neonatal conjunctivitis by definition presents during the first month of life. It may be infectious or non infectious. In infectious conjunctivitis, the organism is transmitted from the genital tract of an infected mother during birth or by infected hands.
Signs and symptoms
- Pain and tenderness in the eyeball.
- Conjunctival discharge: purulent, mucoid or mucopurulent depending on the cause.
- Conjunctiva shows hyperaemia and chemosis. Eyelids are usually swollen.
- Corneal involvement (rare) may occur in herpes simplex ophthalmia neonatorum.
Time of onset
Chemical causes: Right after delivery
Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Delivery of the baby until 5 days post-birth (Early onset)
Chlamydia trachomatis: 5 days post-birth to 2 weeks (Late onset - C.trachomatis has longer incubation period)
Untreated cases may develop corneal ulceration, which may perforate resulting in corneal opacification and Staphyloma formation.
Chemical irritants such as silver nitrate can cause chemical conjunctivitis, usually lasting 2–4 days. Thus, silver nitrate is no longer in common use. In most countries neomycin and chloramphenicol eye drops are used instead.
Many different bacteria and viruses can cause conjunctivitis in the neonate. The two most common causes are N. gonorrheae and Chlamydia acquired from the birth canal during delivery.
Ophthalmia neonatorum due to gonococci (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) typically manifests in the first five days post birth and is associated with marked bilateral purulent discharge and local inflammation. In contrast, conjunctivitis secondary to infection with chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) produces conjunctivitis after day three post birth, but may occur up to two weeks after delivery. The discharge is usually more watery in nature (mucopurulent) and less inflamed. Babies infected with chlamydia may develop pneumonitis (chest infection) at a later stage (range 2 weeks – 19 weeks after delivery). Infants with chlamydia pneumonitis should be treated with oral erythromycin for 10–14 days.
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Prophylaxis needs antenatal, natal, and post-natal care.
- Antenatal measures include thorough care of mother and treatment of genital infections when suspected.
- Natal measures are of utmost importance as mostly infection occurs during childbirth. Deliveries should be conducted under hygienic conditions taking all aseptic measures. The newborn baby's closed lids should be thoroughly cleansed and dried.
- Postnatal measures include:
- Use of 1% tetracycline ointment or 0.5% erythromycin ointment or 1% silver nitrate solution (Crede's method) into the eyes of babies immediately after birth
- Single injection of ceftriaxone IM or IV should be given to infants born to mothers with untreated gonococcal infection.
- Curative treatment as a rule, conjunctival cytology samples and culture sensitivity swabs should be taken before starting treatment
- Chemical ophthalmia neonatorum is a self-limiting condition and does not require any treatment.
- Gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum needs prompt treatment to prevent complications. Topical therapy should include
- Saline lavage hourly till the discharge is eliminated
- Bacitracin eye ointment four times per day (Because of resistant strains topical penicillin therapy is not reliable. However in cases with proved penicillin susceptibility, penicillin drops 5000 to 10000 units per ml should be instilled every minute for half an hour, every five minutes for next half an hour and then half-hourly till infection is controlled)
- If the cornea is involved then atropine sulphate ointment should be applied.
- The advice of both the pediatrician and ophthalmologist should be sought for proper management.
Systemic therapy: Newborns with gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum should be treated for seven days with one of the following regimens ceftriaxone, cefotaxime, ciprofloxacin, crystalline benzyl penicillin
- Other bacterial ophthalmia neonatorum should be treated by broad spectrum antibiotics drops and ointment for two weeks.
- Neonatal inclusion conjunctivitis caused by Chlamydia trachomatis responds well to topical tetracycline 1% or erythromycin 0.5% eye ointment QID for three weeks. However systemic erythromycin should also be given since the presence of chlamydia agents in conjunctiva implies colonization of upper respiratory tract as well. Both parents should also be treated with systemic erythromycin.
- Herpes simplex conjunctivitis should be treated with intravenous acyclovir for a minimum of 14 days to prevent systemic infection.
- "MedlinePlus - Neonatal Conjunctivitis". Retrieved 2008-08-28.
- "Conjunctivitis, Neonatal: Overview - eMedicine".
- "Red Book - Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 29th Edition. The American Academy of Pediatrics.". Retrieved 2007-07-12.
- "Neonatal Conjunctivitis Treatment & Management: Treatment of Neonatal Herpetic Conjunctivitis.". Retrieved 2013-08-11.