Are Doctors Treating Pink Eye Incorrectly?

A recent study regarding the effectiveness of the common recommendation an individual receives for acute conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, says doctors may be getting it wrong. Over 60 percent of patients are prescribed antibiotic eye drops, but research shows that antibiotics aren't necessarily effective in properly treating this type of eye infection. Another 20 percent receive a type of antibiotic eye drop that also contains steroid which often makes the infection worse.

The study was published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which really dissected the use of antibiotics as a way to treat pink eye in the United States. It was shown that all this type of treatment protocol does is promote antibiotic resistance while also increasing overall costs to patients. The study identified those who had filled specific prescriptions for eye drops after being diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis. The 20 percent that received the antibiotic eye drops that also contain a steroid often found their symptoms prolonged or worsened because steroids shouldn't typically be used for that type of infection.

What was even more unsettling was that the odds of whether or not the prescription was filled depended heavily on the patient's socioeconomic status instead of their risk for developing additional eye infections. This is the case with those who wear contact lenses and those who have been diagnosed with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

The Right Diagnosis

Pink eye is incredibly common. So much so that over six million people in the United States suffer from it per year. There are typically three types that are seen most regularly: allergic conjunctivitis, viral and bacterial.

The study found that acute conjunctivitis is often diagnosed improperly by the wrong type of medical professionals. Over 83 percent of urgent care providers, family physicians and pediatricians made the diagnosis instead of trained optometrists or ophthalmologists. It also needs to be noted that patients diagnosed by those outside of the specialty prescribe antibiotic eye drops two or three times more than an ophthalmologist

Patients who did fill their antibiotic prescriptions tended to be white, younger, wealthier and better educated. This highlights the systemic and prevalent bias that the medical industry is complicit in allowing - along with most other industries in this society.

One researcher explains: This study opens the lid on overprescribing of antibiotics for a common eye infection. It shows that current treatment decisions for pink eye are not based on evidence, but are often driven more by the type of health care practitioner making the diagnosis and the patient's socioeconomic status than by medical reasons. The potential negative consequences are difficult to justify as we move toward focusing on value in health care.

This is also incredibly inefficient on top of being shameful. But many people who have frequented the doctor's office for various illnesses and ailments know that sometimes the doctor is really only guessing when it comes to what they think the diagnosis is and what they advise you to take for it. Antibiotics as a whole are overprescribed, and because of this, certain strains of bacteria are performing mutations and becoming stronger than the antibiotics themselves. When dealing with prescription medication, even if it's just eye drops or ointment, getting the proper item for your specific needs is crucial.

 

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