What Is Chloramphenicol Eye Ointment?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Chloramphenicol eye ointment is a prescription topical antibiotic used to treat a number of different severe eye infections. The medication is highly effective, but serious allergic reactions and other adverse side effects can occur. Doctors reserve this ointment for cases of infection that are not relieved with other less hazardous medications. Most patients who use the ointment regularly experience full relief from their symptoms within one to two weeks.

The antibiotic agents in chloramphenicol eye ointment are effective at killing strains of staphylococci, streptococci, Escherichia coli, and several other less common bacteria. It works by infiltrating bacterial cells and disrupting protein synthesis, a necessary process for bacteria to replicate their DNA, reproduce, and spread. Existing bacteria eventually expire, and symptoms of eye irritation, vision blurring, redness, and tearing are relieved.

Before prescribing chloramphenicol eye ointment, physicians usually try to treat infections with oral antibiotics and soothing eye drops. Patients whose symptoms persist or worsen over the course of several days may be referred to eye specialists, who can determine if the ointment would be a good option. A specialist can determine the proper dosage amount based on the type of bacteria involved, the age of the patient, and the severity of symptoms. Most adults are instructed to apply about a half-inch (about 1.25 centimeter) strip of the medication directly on the eye every three hours. Children generally need to use about half as much ointment in each administration.


Chloramphenicol eye ointment comes in a plastic squeezable tube with an application tip. Being careful not to touch the eye with the tip, the user holds his or her lower eyelid down and squeezes the appropriate amount into the bottom of the eye. After applying the ointment, the eye should be held closed for several seconds to disperse it across the entire surface. Patients are usually instructed to keep using the ointment until symptoms have been completely absent for two or three days to make sure the infection is gone.

The most common side effects of chloramphenicol eye ointment are slight burning or stinging sensations after application. Occasionally, the ointment can temporarily worsen irritation and other eye symptoms. A rare but serious risk when using the ointment is the development of potentially fatal blood disorders, including aplastic anemia and thrombocytopenia. Blood thinning and oxygen depletion can severely damage the heart, lungs, and brain. The risk of blood disorders is very low, but most doctors still perform regular blood tests during the course of treatment to make sure problems do not arise.


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Post 2

@ceilingcat - I'm glad your infection cleared up with just the regular antibiotics. I'm not a fan of having to use strong medications when I don't have to either.

That being said, I don't know if I could even administer something like this on myself. I can't even give myself eye drops! I really hope I never develop a serious eye infection so I don't have to find out.

Post 1

I'm pretty sure I almost had to use this type of eye ointment at one point. I had a pretty bad eye infection, and for a little while it was looking like the antibiotics weren't going to get rid of it. However, my infection cleared up by the time I was done the full course.

I'm glad, because medications with scary possible side effects really give me the creeps. Especially when it comes to my eyes. Most of my hobbies are visual: I like to read and I'm into art. Having something permanently effect my sight would be really detrimental to my happiness.

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