Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is a rare but severe form of pink eye.
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is a common type of eye inflammation often caused by an infection. It frequently occurs in children, but different types of conjunctivitis affect different populations.
There are many types of conjunctivitis, such as allergic conjunctivitis, which is caused by common allergens like dust and pollen.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacterial infections in your eyes. Several types of bacteria can cause conjunctivitis, and they have different symptoms, severity, and treatments.
Let’s take a look at what sets hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis apart from other types.
While the names sound similar, hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is a different condition from acute bacterial conjunctivitis.
The two diseases have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is much rarer and more severe.
Acute bacterial conjunctivitis is common and frequently affects children. The strains most associated with acute bacterial conjunctivitis include:
Meanwhile, hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis most often affects people who are sexually active or newborns. It’s caused by different bacterial strains than acute bacterial conjunctivitis, such as:
Unlike some other forms of conjunctivitis, you’ll usually begin to notice the symptoms of hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis very rapidly.
The most recognizable symptom is a massive amount of mucopurulent discharge. This fluid is a mixture of mucus and pus that can leak from your eyes when you have conjunctivitis. If you have hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis, you might wipe away this fluid only to have it build up again after only a few minutes.
Other symptoms of hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis include:
Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis usually only affects one eye, but that’s not true for every case.
Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection in your eyes.
One of the bacterial strains that can cause hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is N. gonorrhoeae. This is the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection. The bacteria is transmissible during sex. This can happen if secretions from a person who has it come into contact with your eyes, either directly or via your hands.
This same bacteria can also spread to newborns during vaginal birth. Newborns are usually given antibiotic eyedrops shortly after birth to help prevent this and other infections.
N. meningitidis is another bacteria that can also cause hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis. It’s transmitted through prolonged close contact.
Because of the specific types of bacteria that are responsible for hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis, the primary risk factor is being sexually active.
Having multiple parts or engaging in sex without any type of barrier can further increase your risk of hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis.
Having an existing scratch or other damage to your cornea could make it easier for all types of bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents to enter your eye. You might also be at increased risk if you’re immunocompromised.
If left untreated, hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis can have severe complications.
Corneal infiltrates are one possible complication, which is a type of inflammatory response in your cornea that can cause pain, cloudy vision, and light sensitivity.
Severe inflammation from hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis can lead to corneal melting, which is loss of the superficial corneal collagen layers, often with thinning of deeper layers resulting in the formation of ulcers. Left untreated, corneal ulcers can result in perforation of the eyeball.
Permanent vision loss, including blindness, can also occur if you don’t receive prompt and appropriate medical attention.
In the most serious cases, the infection can be fatal if it’s able to spread throughout your body.
The extreme amounts of mucopurulent discharge associated with hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis are distinctive, and doctors may recognize the disease during an examination.
A doctor will take a sample of the discharge and send it to a lab. A smear of the discharge can be stained and examined under the microscope for rapid confirmation. Additionally, the lab can culture the sample to more definitively identify the organism and the most effective antibiotic for treatment. Doctors can then use this information to come up with a diagnosis.
You may also be asked to provide a urethral swab or urine sample for testing. This can be used to check for gonorrhea, which would also indicate that you have the N. gonorrhoeae bacteria in your body.
The first thing doctors will likely do is begin to flush your eyes regularly with saline. This will help remove bacteria and prevent them from multiplying or further entering your eyes.
You can expect to be given medication as well. This might be done orally, intravenously, or with injections. Doctors might use a combination of these methods.
Medications used to treat hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis include:
If your eyes are suddenly and inexplicably bothering you, it’s a good idea to visit with a primary care doctor or a specialist like an ophthalmologist.
Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis causes your eyes to uncontrollably produce an incredible amount of pus. This is a distinct symptom that you would be very unlikely to miss. If this is what you’re experiencing, contact a medical professional right away.
If left untreated, hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis can lead to permanent vision loss, blindness, or further life threatening infection.
The best ways to prevent hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis are to practice good hygiene.
Regular handwashing can help prevent the spread of bacterial and other infections. Avoid touching your face and especially your eyes if your hands are not clean.
Share your sexual history with any partners. If you have multiple partners, consider regular screenings for sexually transmitted diseases. Using barriers during sex can also prevent the spread of infection.
Hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis is a rare but severe form of pink eye. It’s caused by bacteria that are responsible for gonorrhea or meningitis.
The most distinguishing symptom is massive amounts of pus coming from your eyes that return immediately after wiping. You might also notice redness, swelling, and pain.
Serious complications could include loss of vision or even death if the infection spreads. If you’re having symptoms of hyperacute bacterial conjunctivitis, visit a doctor right away.