She's worried.
April 30, 2010 5:41 AM   Subscribe

My wife has conjunctivitis (pinkeye). The symptoms started on Tuesday and she started antibiotics the same day, but now there is a complication.

Some more background: She doesn't have medical insurance or else we would have gone to a doctor by now. The antibiotics she is on are an old prescription (1 year old, at least) originally prescribed for our daughter (a toddler). It started in one eye and spread to the second the next day, but the second eye had only mild symptoms (almost no redness, for example).

Neither I nor my daughter have gotten it, and we spend large amounts of time with her (she is home with my daughter almost all day every day).

OK, over the last couple of days the antibiotics seemed to be working and the symptoms were improving. She had less redness in the eye and the dry itchy feeling was also improving. These were her only symptoms.

However, today she woke up with a puffy eye-lid (just one, in the originally infected eye).

Is it normal, or worrisome, for a new symptom to come forward after you've started antibiotics? Could this mean that she has been reinfected or something? Is it no big deal? Could the antibiotics have gone bad?

I know that we should go to see a professional, but $200 for an uninsured urgent care visit is a bit steep for us right now.
posted by oddman to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
How likely is the puffy lid to be unrelated? Also, she says that she broke down and rubbed her eye last night because it was itching so bad. Although she's been good about it otherwise.
posted by oddman at 5:43 AM on April 30, 2010

How do you know the antibiotics in question are effective for pink eye.

No offense but your method is madness.

Go to a doctor and get it fixed.
posted by dfriedman at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Which antibiotic did she take?
posted by rancidchickn at 5:55 AM on April 30, 2010

Your profile says you're in Gainesville, which is about an hour away from the nearest one I could find, but the CVS Minute Clinics in my area treak pink-eye for a low price, and you get the proper antibiotics right from the nurse practitioners.
posted by xingcat at 5:58 AM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also try Walgreen's Take Care clinics - or call around for community clinics that aren't urgent care.

One possibility aside from the effectiveness of the antibiotic being decreased over time is that it's a different pinkeye infection than originally treated - she re-infected herself with what your daughter had? My ped always cautioned us on sharing the drops amongst ourselves (given, not a year later but at infection time) and would prescribe a "double dose" so each kid could have their own bottle a couple of times.
posted by tilde at 6:02 AM on April 30, 2010

Pink eye is usually viral, so cannot be treated with antibiotics. It will usually go away in 7-10 days without medical treatment. You must be very careful not to spread it. You should be able to get something over the counter to alleviate symptoms. Call Walgreen's or wherever and ask about eye drops for this purpose.

I found all this out just by googling. It took about two minutes.

Taking outdated antibiotics usually won't hurt anything. However, the concern is that there were leftover antibiotics to begin with. Doctors ask that the entire prescription be used when prescribed, even if symptoms clear up. The reason for this is that the bacteria causing the infection can mostly die off, leaving no more symptoms. However, if the medicine is discontinued at that time, these bacteria can survive and become more resistant to that antibiotic in the future. In order to maintain the efficacy of a particular antibiotic, you have to take ALL of it.
posted by wwartorff at 6:03 AM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

My mother always treated her five children for pinkeye with an over the counter ointment. We got better in about a day. Get thee to the nearest pharmacy and ask the pharmacist what to buy.
posted by orange swan at 6:12 AM on April 30, 2010

I'm also uninsured, and I've found that eyes are really the one thing I won't mess around with.

Untreated eye infections can lead to all sorts of shitty problems that I'm sure your wife doesn't want to deal with. More than once I've tried to treat an eye infection with OTC drops and finally went to the eye doctor with my tail between my legs, where he treated me with $80 prescription drops that were made of magic. GO to the community clinic, or regular doctor!
posted by pintapicasso at 6:18 AM on April 30, 2010

Good point wwartorff - some cases are viral.

However, discharge indicates bacterial infection, requiring antibiotics.

Although the OP doesn't indicate discharge, absence of discharge doesn't automatically make it viral.

I am not a doctor, nurse, or health care professional.
posted by tilde at 6:19 AM on April 30, 2010

Find a Minute Clinic. Failing that, go to urgent care.

Your eyes are worth a lot more than $200.
posted by schmod at 6:21 AM on April 30, 2010

What about going to the eye doctor? If I remember correctly, the last time I went to Lenscrafters the eye exam was super cheap, under $40. This was without insurance. These places make their money on the glasses, but you're not under any obligation to buy glasses just because you got an exam, and the O.D.s are perfectly competent to diagnose pinkeye and prescribe appropriate drugs (if necessary - as other posters have mentioned, not all pinkeye is bacterial) or refer you on to someone else if it's actually more serious. Call around, see what your local optometrists (especially chains and doctors working in places like Target, Sears, Costco) charge; you might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by mskyle at 7:12 AM on April 30, 2010

I have a friend who treated her case of pinkeye with her son's leftover drops - her eye got much worse and very red. When she went to the doctor, he reminded her that she was allergic to sulfa, which is what the drops were.

Also, my son had pinkeye about a milllion times - some of the drops are $80 and some are $8. (I had insurance, but don't think that the prescriptions prices were affected much.) Try to get your doctor to give you the cheap ones.

My pediatrician always said that if your eyes were stuck shut with goo in the morning, that was pinkeye. Those were the magic words I had to say to get antibiotics called in to the pharmacy.
The fact that no one has gotten it from her doesn't mean anything. I've had pinkeye as a stay at home mom with two toddlers and not given it to them and my son never gave it to me or his sister.

I will say, the drops usually work pretty quickly when it's pinkeye, so go to the doctor in case it's not.
posted by artychoke at 7:15 AM on April 30, 2010

Our entire family had the worst case of pinkeye last month it lasted for weeks and would seemingly go away and flare up again. It seemed endless. But after two weeks it was gone. It looks much worse than it is.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 8:05 AM on April 30, 2010

Minute clinics or "Mc Doctor's" are perfect for this sort of thing. Some Walmarts even have them now.

Another general thing to look into is cleaning EVERYTHING. Have her throw away all makeup, change pillow cases daily (maybe even sterilize the pillow if she gets particularly weepy/drippy), swab the eye drop bottle with alcohol and let dry before and after use. I had conjunctivitis and reinfected myself a week or two later.

Also my eyes were much worse in the morning than any other part of the day. More time for the bacteria to get cozy and warm without air interfering for 8 hours. I still think seeing a doctor is a good idea, but it sounds normal to this unqualified random person on the internet.

Not to freak you out, but I've got a story about a friend of mine, uninsured, who had an eye infection. It was persistent and she didn't want to pay for another doctor visit. She had a bit of a blurry vision in the corner of one eye. This led to her mistakenly thinking the road was clear while crossing and she got hit by a car. She was fine, just some huge bruises. All in all, the ambulance ride and X Rays cost a whole lot more than another doctors visit.
posted by fontophilic at 8:35 AM on April 30, 2010

1) You generally should not be using old antibiotics for a new eye infection, so at least rectify that situation with the minute clinic, even if it is just pinkeye (it was $60 plus the antibiotic for me at the CVS in my area).

2) please please please go to an eye doctor, if you think it's anything worse than a standard pinkeye. I just say this because I ended up with a hole in my cornea after some complications that started with a standard pinkeye infection (which was treated). Not that this will happen to your wife, obviously, but I'm saying it's nothing to play around with. Go to an ophthalmologist - they will be cheaper than urgent care and will also know more about whatever is going on.
posted by smalls at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2010

wwartorff writes "However, the concern is that there were leftover antibiotics to begin with. Doctors ask that the entire prescription be used when prescribed, even if symptoms clear up."

While this is true the two times I've been prescribed antibiotics for my eyes they've come in a bottle that contained easily three times the amount I ended up using for the complete course I was told to administer.
posted by Mitheral at 9:13 AM on April 30, 2010

Please don't do this. Go to the doctor. Your daughter should have finished the antibiotics that were prescribed for her.
posted by sanko at 9:41 AM on April 30, 2010

Nthing see a doctor of some sort, don't use hand-me-down antibiotics, etc. But, for what it's worth, one time when I had conjunctivitis (had already been to eye doc and prescribed drops) I awoke in the AM with a puffy eyelid. I presumed the worst and went back to the eye doctor; he checked and said that I'd apparently rubbed/scratched it in my sleep. Why that would cause the infected eye to swell, I don't know, but that was his diagnosis.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:09 AM on April 30, 2010

Is she still breastfeeding the kid? A few drops of breastmilk has been known to cure conjunctivitus.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:18 AM on April 30, 2010

While this is true the two times I've been prescribed antibiotics for my eyes they've come in a bottle that contained easily three times the amount I ended up using for the complete course I was told to administer.

The way Mitheral has written this makes me think it's referring to ointment or eyedrops. Which, after a year of sitting around, will be nicely full of bacteria by now. Those things don't keep. So oddman if your wife has been administering old antibiotics which aren't in a correctly-stored pill then she needs to stop straight away and see a Dr because she could have a secondary infection. Taking other people's medication is never a good idea anyway and a Dr's visit is probably in order by now regardless, but old eyedrops would make it just about compulsory.
posted by shelleycat at 2:34 PM on April 30, 2010

The antibiotics she is on are an old prescription (1 year old, at least) originally prescribed for our daughter (a toddler).

This is a hideously bad idea on a whole bunch of levels.

Don't do this. Yes, the antibiotics could have gone bad but for some reason you didn't even tell us what antibiotics they are or the dosages, which would seem to have been relevant information. But like I said: DONT DO THIS. See a doctor. Go to a free clinic if you have to.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on April 30, 2010

I am not going to refute the "see a doctor" advice, but will share my experience.

Going to the eye doc is way cheaper than going to a regular doc. When I had the pinkeye I made an appointment. Was checked and written a prescription and it was not expensive.

Another time I found some sources that saline solution (used for contacts) was an effective home remedy. Worked for me. I don't know if does anything more than just flush your eye out, but it helped me.

Good luck.
posted by damionbroadaway at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2010

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