Neonatal conjunctivitis, also known as ophthalmia neonatorum, is a type of eye infection that affects newborn babies. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses that enter the eye during or shortly after birth.
In neonatal bacterial conjunctivitis, the baby's eyes catch the infection during passage through the infected mother's birth canal, usually with either Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis. Symptoms of neonatal bacterial conjunctivitis include mucopurulent discharge, conjunctival hyperemia, crusting of the eyelashes, and can cause blindness if left untreated. Neonatal viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by adenovirus and enterovirus infection, and is less severe compared to its bacterial counterpart.
To prevent neonatal conjunctivitis, it is important to practice good hygiene during childbirth and to follow guidelines for the care of newborns, such as washing hands before handling the baby and avoiding sharing towels or other personal items with the baby. Prophylactic (preventive) eye drops or ointments may be given to newborns to prevent infection.