Ophthalmia neonatorum is conjunctivitis that occurs in a newborn. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the surface or covering of the eye. Any eye infection that occurs in the first month of a baby’s life can be classified as ophthalmia neonatorum.

Conjunctivitis
Inflamed conjunctiva
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The cause of the conjunctivitis may be an irritation in the eye or a blocked tear duct. In some cases the irritation may be from the antibiotic given after delivery.

Bacteria can also cause an infection in the eye. The most common types of bacteria that cause infection in the infant’s eye come from the mother’s birth canal, and are passed to the infant during delivery. These infections can include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—The most common bacteria passed to infants during delivery are due to STDs from the mother’s birth canal. If untreated, many of these infections can cause serious damage to the infant’s eye. STDs that can cause eye damage include:
  • Skin bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacteria from the mother’s gastrointestinal tract, such as Pseudomonas or Klebsiella