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Chlamydial Conjunctivitis

What is chlamydial conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the white of the eye.

Chlamydia are a kind of bacteria.

How does it occur?

Chlamydia can be spread by body fluids. This includes:

  • touching your eyes with your hands
  • sharing washcloths, towels, cosmetics, or false eyelashes
  • sexual contact

Also, a mother who has chlamydia can give this disease to her baby at birth as the baby passes through the birth canal.

What are the symptoms?

Eye problems caused by chlamydia in adults usually develop slowly. Symptoms may include:

  • watery discharge
  • irritation
  • redness
  • eyes sensitive to light

Usually there is no change in vision and no pain.

In a newborn, the symptoms may be eye redness and watery discharge that begin when the baby is 5 to 7 days old.

How is it diagnosed?

Your eye care provider will examine your eyes. You may have inflammation, bumps, or scar tissue inside your eyelid. Your provider may send scrapings from the underside of your eyelid to a lab to identify the organism causing your symptoms.

How is it treated?

You will need two forms of antibiotics:

  • one that you take in pill form to kill chlamydia in your body, AND
  • one that you put in your eyes in the form of eyedrops or ointment

Follow your provider's instructions carefully. You may need to have tests for other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Also, your sexual partner must be treated for chlamydia with antibiotics.

Treatment for a newborn is antibiotic ointment and IV antibiotics. Early treatment can prevent serious problems. Chlamydia can cause blindness or severe lung infections in newborns.

How long will the effects last?

You may have only mild symptoms for weeks or months. Usually you will get better after taking the antibiotics for 3 to 4 weeks.

How can it be prevented?

  • Wash your hands often. Do not touch or rub your eyes.
  • Never share eye makeup or cosmetics with anyone. When you have conjunctivitis, throw out eye makeup you have been using.
  • Do not share towels, washcloths, pillows, or sheets with anyone. If one of your eyes is affected but not the other, use a separate towel for each eye.
  • Practice safe sex to avoid getting any sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • If you get an STD, see your provider and follow your treatment plan carefully.
  • Be sure that your partner is also treated for any STD.
  • If you are pregnant and have a chlamydial infection, get treatment for it before your baby is born.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-10-18
Last reviewed: 2010-10-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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