What Are the Possible Side Effects of Chloramphenicol Eye Ointment?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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Chloramphenicol eye ointment is a combination eye ointment that contains an antibiotic and a steroid. The antibiotic treats or prevents a bacterial infection of the eye while the steroid helps prevent or reduce inflammation. Common side effects include blurred vision and burning or stinging following application. Serious side effects include development of a rash, swelling in or around the eyes, and abnormal bleeding.

As a broad-spectrum antibiotic, chloramphenicol eye ointment treats or prevents infection caused by many different species, including bacteria that cause meningitis and enterococcus. The steroid additive works to reduce inflammation of the eye that commonly occurs in conjunction with an infection. Similar to many other ophthalmic eye ointments, side effects are possible.

Commonly reported side effects of chloramphenicol eye ointment include eye irritation, blurred vision, and a burning or stinging sensation after the eye ointment is applied. Some patients also report sensitivity to light. These side effects often subside within a few minutes, however. Irritation can be reduced by applying saline eye drops in the affected eye, but these drops should be applied at least five minutes after applying the chloramphenicol.


Serious side effects of chloramphenicol eye ointment are rare but possible. These can include an allergic reaction that is evident if a rash, unusual bleeding, or swelling occurs. Immediate medical care is necessary if difficulty breathing, loss of vision, or loss of consciousness occurs. If an allergic reaction is suspected,or the common side effects persist and become bothersome, the prescribing physician should be notified.

Extremely rare side effects are also possible. Chloramphenicol eye ointment has the potential of causing aplastic anemia and other issues involving the production of important blood cells made in the bone marrow. Aplastic anemia is a disorder that occurs when bone marrow does not produce enough white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Other problems with new cell production that can be caused by chloramphenicol include bicytopenia, which is a condition that occurs when production of two of the three types of cells made by bone marrow are affected.

This eye ointment should be taken as instructed to help reduce the amount or intensity of the side effects that may be experienced. To avoid contamination and exposing the chloramphenicol eye ointment to bacteria, it is important to follow the physician’s instructions for application. Hands should be washed thoroughly and contact between the eye and the tube should be avoided. The tube tip should not be touched, even with clean hands.


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Post 3
@alisha-- Relax, because the more serious side effects are rare and often reversible. Chloramphenicol can be toxic, but only at very high doses. Developing resistance to chloramphenicol is a bigger issue.
Post 2

@literally45-- The ointment can be difficult to apply, but there are also chloramphenicol eye drops. So if you get another infection, that can be an option.

I just found out that chloramphenicol can have serious side effects like bone marrow issues. Exactly, how common are these side effects? I'm very worried right now and I'm supposed to continue using the ointment for another three days. So far, I only have some mild side effects. My eye is a little irritated and red.

Post 1

I don't like this ointment at all. I had to use it for an eye infection but it was so difficult to use.

First of all, I had so much trouble trying to get it into my eye. It has a thick consistency so most of the ointment would get stuck on my eyelashes. It always took several tries to get it in my eye. And as soon as that happened, it would sting so bad! I had to close my eyes and wait for ten minutes after applying it for the stinging to go away. And then my eyes would be blurry for a half hour.

I hope I never have to use this ointment again.

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