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Chloramphenicol is a broad-spectrum antibiotic medication that is capable of killing many types of infectious bacteria. This drug may be taken orally to control infections throughout the body, but its most common form in many locations is chloramphenicol eye drops. Most types of eye infections caused by bacteria can be treated with these eye drops, although infections caused by some specific organisms will not be affected. With a doctor's recommendation, the eye drops may be used to treat bacterial ear infections as well, but should never be used if the eardrum has been damaged.
The use of chloramphenicol eye drops is similar to any other type of medicated eye drop. Patients should always wash their hands before and after handling the drops in order to avoid contaminating the liquid, which can make the infection worse. The lower eyelid should be pulled forward to form a pouch, and a single drop should be placed in the pouch. Afterward, the eyes are closed for a minute or two to ensure that the drop absorbs. Depending on the extent of the infection, this procedure should be performed two to six times daily.
Like any antibiotic treatment, chloramphenicol eye drops should be used until the medication is completely gone. Discontinuing use prematurely can result in resistant bacteria reappearing and renewing the infection after several days. Even if the patient seems symptom free, the therapy should continue for as long as a doctor has recommended. Additionally, this medication should only be used when prescribed by a doctor, to avoid the creation of drug-resistant microbes that chloramphenicol is not meant to treat.
Some side effects can occasionally result from using chloramphenicol eye drops. Slight eye irritation that results in redness, stinging, or mild pain, as well as blurry vision can occur, but these effects are not considered serious. These adverse effects should be reported to a doctor, however, if they do not disappear after a few days. Emergency medical services should be contacted immediately if signs of an allergic reaction occur, such as swelling of the face, trouble breathing, or feelings of faintness, as these reactions may be fatal.
Certain pre-existing medical conditions could make the use of chloramphenicol eye drops dangerous. Liver and kidney conditions, in particular, are cause for avoiding this medication, since it may not be metabolized, or broken down, by the body in a timely fashion. Tuberculosis and other diseases that can result in eye infections are also conditions that could lead to unsafe conditions when these eye drops are used. A thorough medical history should be provided to the doctor before using this medication to avoid unnecessary risks.