Ointments as used to treat many eye conditions. Erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is an antibiotic that comes in a small tube. Your doctor will give instructions on how much and how long to use the medication to help prevent a recurrence of the underlying condition.
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One of the most common uses of erythromycin ointment is to prevent neonatal conjunctivitis, an eye infection in newborns. According to the University of Hawaii's School of Medicine, between 2 to 12 percent of newborns have eye infections. In many infants, the condition often results from the birth canal, particularly if the mother has herpes or gonorrhea. Shortly after birth, a nurse or the doctor will place a small amount of erythromycin ointment in the eyes of the infant in an attempt to prevent an eye infection from occurring.
Doctors may also prescribe erythromycin ointment for children and adults with an eye infection. Conjunctivitis, an eye infection -- also known as pink eye -- commonly causes a red, itchy eye that may also ache. A corneal infection, an infection of the front, clear layer of the eye, may also require the use of erythromycin ointment. When applied to the eye, the ointment slowly works its way over the eye’s surface, treating the infection. For dosing, the doctor may recommend an ointment instead of an eye drop due to the significance of the infection. A doctor may also prescribe eye drops and the erythromycin ophthalmic ointment together if he or she feels the condition requires the additional treatment.
The eyelids have oil glands called meibomian glands. If one of these small pockets becomes inflamed, a bump may appear on the eyelid. Many people refer to the bumps as a stye, though doctors refer to the bump as a chalazion or a hordeolum, depending on the cause and location of the inflammation. In the beginning stages, the stye may appear small, but if the inflammation increases, the lid may swell significantly. For some people, warm compresses may reduce swelling and aid in healing. However, some doctors will prescribe erythromycin ophthalmic ointment to be used several times each day. If the stye does not improve, an eye doctor may need to perform a minor surgical procedure in order to drain the gland.
Trauma, cancer or other severe eye conditions may result in the need for enucleation -- the removal of the eye. After the procedure, the surgeon will usually apply erythromycin ophthalmic ointment to the site, and may then recommend that the person apply the ointment routinely to the wound in the eye socket. Though every surgeon will recommend a different application procedure, one possible schedule may require the ointment application twice a day for 1 month. The ointment will help prevent infection or inflammation, and may also help keep the area comfortable