Online erythromycin ophthalmic ointment prescriptions for eye infection treatment and prevention

Erythromycin eye ointment is a topical antibacterial medication used to treat infections such as bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye), styes, and blepharitis. If you suspect you or your child has an eye infection, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified doctors or visit your local urgent care, emergency room, or eye specialist for diagnosis and treatment. While rare, some bacterial eye infections can cause serious effects - even blindness - if not treated quickly.

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Effective in treating various bacterial infections

Available as an ointment for eyes

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How does erythromycin ointment work?

Erythromycin ethyl succinate (E.E.S.) ointment is a safe and effective topical medication that works through several mechanisms:

  • Antibacterial action: Erythromycin belongs to a class of antibiotics known as macrolides. It suppresses bacterial protein synthesis, effectively preventing bacteria from growing and multiplying. This action helps treat infections caused by bacteria sensitive to erythromycin.

  • Broad-spectrum activity: Erythromycin is effective against a wide range of bacteria, making it suitable for treating various types of bacterial eye infections, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), blepharitis, and other diseases of the eye and eyelid.

  • Topical application: When applied as an ointment directly to the infected eye, the erythromycin antibiotic goes right to the site of infection. This ensures that the medication acts directly on the bacteria present in the eye, leading to quicker and more effective treatment.

  • Reduced inflammation: By treating a bacterial infection, erythromycin ointment helps quickly reduce inflammation and other symptoms associated with the infection, such as redness, itching, and discharge.

  • Helping prevent infection spread: Bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye) is highly contagious. Using erythromycin ointment can prevent the spread of infection to other parts of the eye or other people. Practicing good hygiene, such as regular handwashing, avoiding touching the face, and using separate personal items like towels, can also help reduce the risk of spreading pink eye.


Erythromycin ointment is just one option for the treatment of eye infections, and your doctor will help you decide if this is the best option for you or if there is a more suitable choice.

Our PlushCare telemedicine docs can help prescribe erythromycin ointment

It can be hard to take time off work or school to travel to the doctor’s office, deal with long wait times, or even find an available appointment. Getting a prescription quickly means quicker treatment and a better outcome for most common eye infections.

Virtual doctor’s appointments are convenient and accessible, allowing you to be seen by a doctor for your eye infection symptoms without leaving your home. Many patients also choose online healthcare to avoid the unnecessary risk of getting sick from other patients in the doctor’s office.

Skip the long wait or being put on hold at a doctor’s office - our convenient, flexible, online booking process provides quick access to board-certified doctors. This makes it easier to start treatment early for conditions like pink eye. It’s also easier to schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the progress of your treatment and make any necessary adjustments.

When to see a local doctor for eye infection symptoms


If your eye infection symptoms worsen quickly or are severe, you must see a local doctor immediately.  Signs to look out for include severe eye pain, sensitivity to light, or blurred vision that does not improve after gently cleaning your eye. Also, if your condition doesn’t improve with treatment, your telemedicine doctor may refer you to a local optometrist or ophthalmologist for an in-depth eye examination.

Erythromycin ointment dosage and how to apply it

The strength of erythromycin eye ointment is 0.5%. The dosing instructions can vary based on age, the condition being treated, and the severity of the infection.

Your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to take your prescription. Start by washing your hands, then apply the amount of ointment advised by your doctor to your finger, and use your finger to gently apply the medicine to your (or your child's) eye. Close the eye gently to spread the ointment. Vision may blur temporarily. Use the doses at regular intervals as directed by your doctor. Common directions may include:

  • Children

    • Bacterial conjunctivitis: The 0.5% ointment effectively treats bacterial conjunctivitis in children.

    • Dosage: Directions may include applying a half-inch ribbon of the 0.5% ointment into the affected eye up to 6-7 times daily, depending on your doctor’s recommendation and the severity of the infection.

  • Adults

    • Bacterial eye infections: The 0.5% concentration is commonly used for treating various bacterial eye infections, including conjunctivitis and blepharitis.

    • Dosage: Typically, adults apply a half-inch strip of 0.5% ointment to the affected eye 6 to 7 times daily, depending on the infection. Your doctor will provide you with individual instructions.

  • General considerations

    • Duration and frequency of use: The treatment duration with erythromycin ointment 0.5% varies. It's essential to complete the prescribed course, even if symptoms improve.

    • Application technique: Care should be taken to apply the ointment correctly, avoiding contamination of the tube tip.

    • Monitoring for reactions: Particularly in babies and children, monitoring for any adverse reactions or allergies is crucial. Any signs of worsening conditions should be reported to your doctor immediately.

Common uses of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment

Erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is a versatile treatment for various eye conditions, providing effective relief and management.

  • Treating bacterial stye infections

    Styes are typically caused by an infection of an oil gland at the base of an eyelash. Erythromycin ointment addresses styes and painful lumps that can develop on the eyelid due to bacterial infection. The ointment reduces discomfort and promotes healing by providing targeted treatment that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. While they are generally not contagious, styes can be uncomfortable.

  • Treating pink eye

    Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is a highly contagious bacterial or viral infection that affects the eyes, causing the whites of the eyes to appear reddish or pink.  Both bacterial and viral pink eye are contagious; however, erythromycin ointment is an antibiotic that will only treat bacterial eye infections. While annoying and uncomfortable, viral pink eye is generally not dangerous.

  • Preventing eye infections in newborns

    Erythromycin ointment is also used to prevent bacterial eye infections in newborns. This measure can be effective in preventing gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum, a severe eye infection that can occur in newborns exposed to the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae during childbirth. Erythromycin ointment is often applied to the eyes of newborns shortly after birth to prevent this type of infection and protect their vision, by the care providers present at that time.

The benefits of erythromycin eye ointment: stopping the spread of harmful eye bacteria

Erythromycin eye ointment stops harmful bacteria from growing in your eyes when you have an infection. While most common bacterial infections are not severe, some untreated eye infections can have serious consequences. Your doctor will help guide you to prevent unnecessary risks to your eye health. 

The risks of leaving a bacterial eye infection untreated can include:

  • Increased severity: A bacterial eye infection can worsen without appropriate treatment. The bacteria can continue to reproduce and cause more damage, potentially leading to complications like corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers are open sores on the cornea, the clear front part of the eye, and can seriously affect vision.

  • Chronic inflammation: Untreated bacterial eye infections can result in persistent inflammation. The eye may remain red, swollen, and uncomfortable. Chronic inflammation can contribute to long-term discomfort and may interfere with daily activities.

  • Vision impairment: In severe cases where the infection progresses without intervention, bacteria cause damage to the cornea and other structures in the eye. This damage can lead to vision impairment or even permanent vision loss. Timely treatment is crucial to prevent such consequences.

  • Systemic spread: In rare instances, bacteria from an untreated eye infection can enter the bloodstream, causing systemic infections. This can have implications beyond the eye, affecting other organs and systems in the body. 

  • Recurrence: When a bacterial eye infection is not properly addressed, there's a greater risk of recurrence. The infection may appear to resolve initially, but underlying bacteria can persist, causing the infection to return. This painful cycle can lead to ongoing discomfort and require extended or repeated treatment.

  • Complications in vulnerable populations: Certain groups, such as infants, patients over 65, or individuals with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to serious complications from bacterial eye infections. They may experience more severe symptoms, and the risks of systemic spread and other complications are heightened.


Trust PlushCare for your eye health


PlushCare offers a convenient and reliable telemedicine platform, ensuring accessible healthcare for your eye needs. Schedule a virtual doctor's appointment to consult with board-certified doctors in a relaxed virtual environment, allowing plenty of time for questions and an empathetic approach to your concerns. Our telemedicine services bring healthcare to your fingertips.

What are the risks and side effects?

Erythromycin eye ointment is considered safe for most individuals when used appropriately. Stay in contact with your doctor if you have any concerns. Here are some risks and side effects associated with erythromycin eye ointment:

  • General risks

    Erythromycin eye ointment is generally considered safe when used as prescribed by a healthcare professional.1 However, like any medication, it may pose some risks. Common side effects include temporary blurred vision and mild irritation. These effects are usually short-lived and not causes for concern.

  • Potential long-term risks

    Prolonged or frequent use of erythromycin ointment beyond the prescribed duration may, in some cases, lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. Using the medication exactly as your doctor directs helps to minimize this risk.

  • Special considerations for infants

    Erythromycin eye ointment is often applied to the eyes of newborns shortly after birth to prevent bacterial eye infections, particularly those caused by certain strains of bacteria like chlamydia or gonorrhea. The application is a standard practice and is generally considered safe for infants. However, some babies may experience temporary eye irritation after application.

  • Severe side effects to look out for

    While erythromycin eye ointment is generally well-tolerated, individuals should be vigilant for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing. If these symptoms occur, prompt medical attention is essential.

  • Drug interactions: interactions between erythromycin and other medications or eye drops

    To ensure the safe and effective use of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment, it's crucial to inform your doctor about all medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, eye drops, oral medications, topical treatments, and any herbal or dietary supplements you are using. This helps your doctor assess potential interactions that could affect the absorption or efficacy of erythromycin.

    Even though erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is primarily applied to the eyes, certain medications, especially those containing antibiotics or antifungal agents, may interact. Be sure to inform your doctor if you use other eye medications, especially those with similar active ingredients.  Also, let your doctor know if your medication regimen changes or if you start using new medicines while taking erythromycin.

Alternative treatment to erythromycin: azithromycin ophthalmic solution

In certain situations, alternative treatments may be explored for various reasons, such as allergies to specific medications, unavailability of a particular prescription, or individual patient preferences.

Azithromycin ophthalmic solution, like erythromycin, is an antibiotic designed for ophthalmic use. Azithromycin ophthalmic solution is sometimes preferred to erythromycin for the following reasons: 

  • Broader spectrum antibiotic: Azithromycin, like erythromycin, is a macrolide antibiotic, but it often has a broader spectrum of activity against bacteria, making it effective against a more comprehensive range of bacterial eye infections.

  • Less frequent dosing: Azithromycin ophthalmic solution typically requires less frequent dosing than erythromycin ointment. For instance, azithromycin can be used once daily, which can be more convenient and improve patient compliance, especially in chronic conditions.

  • Easier to apply: Some patients may prefer the solution form of azithromycin over the ointment form of erythromycin. Solutions can be less messy and more accessible, especially for those who find ointments to blur their vision excessively.

  • Reduced risk of antibiotic resistance: In some cases, azithromycin is chosen to minimize the risk of antibiotic resistance, especially if there is concern about the overuse of erythromycin or if the specific bacterial strain is known to be more responsive to azithromycin.

  • Comfort: Azithromycin is generally well-tolerated, with a low incidence of local irritation. Some patients may experience less discomfort with azithromycin solution compared to erythromycin ointment.

  • Sustained effects:  Azithromycin has a long half-life and excellent tissue penetration, which can be advantageous in treating eye infections where sustained antibiotic presence is beneficial.

  • Allergy or sensitivity Issues: Azithromycin is a suitable alternative, given its different chemical structure, when a patient is allergic to or sensitive to erythromycin.


However, it is important to note that in terms of cost, erythromycin is usually a more affordable solution. Azithromycin eye solution often averages more than $200 per vial, whereas erythromycin ointment often costs less than $20 per tube.

Pros and cons of erythromycin eye treatments

Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment

Pros

  • Effectiveness against bacterial Infections: Erythromycin is an effective antibiotic targeting certain bacterial infections in the eyes, rendering it a valuable treatment choice.

  • Prevention of eye infections in newborns: It can be used as a preventive measure in newborns to guard against bacterial eye infections that may be passed on during childbirth.

  • Easy application: The ointment form ensures easy application directly to the affected eye for targeted treatment.

  • Minimal side effects: Erythromycin eye ointment typically exhibits few side effects, and severe adverse reactions are rare.

  • Wide availability: Erythromycin, including its ophthalmic formulations, is widely available in pharmacies, ensuring accessibility for patients needing this medication.

Cons

  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to erythromycin. If this occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Resistance concerns: Prolonged or frequent use of erythromycin may contribute to bacterial resistance, diminishing its effectiveness over time.

  • Blurry vision: Temporary blurred vision is a common side effect immediately after applying the ointment, impacting visual clarity for a brief period.

  • Not effective for viral infections: Erythromycin, an antibiotic, does not address viral eye infections like viral pink eye, as it specifically targets bacterial infections.

  • Application challenges in newborns: Applying the ointment to infants, toddlers, and young children’s eyes can be challenging, and some infants may experience mild eye irritation during the process.

FAQs for erythromycin ointment

  • How soon can I expect to see improvement?

    Improvement timelines vary, but you may notice relief within a few days of consistent use. Always follow your doctor's recommended treatment duration.

  • How should I store erythromycin ophthalmic ointment?

    Store erythromycin ointment at room temperature, away from light and moisture. Follow any specific storage instructions provided by your healthcare professional.

  • Does erythromycin ointment expire?

    Yes, erythromycin ophthalmic ointment has an expiration date. Always check the packaging for this information, and refrain from using it beyond the stated date.

  • How common are eye infections in infants?

    Erythromycin ointment is routinely used in newborns to prevent bacterial eye infections acquired during childbirth. Eye infections in infants can occur, but routine application of this ointment helps reduce the risk.

  • Can erythromycin ophthalmic ointment be used on the skin?

    No, erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is specifically formulated for the eyes and should not be used on the skin. Consult your healthcare provider for skin-related concerns.

  • How long is erythromycin ophthalmic ointment good for?

    The duration of effectiveness is typically until the expiration date mentioned on the packaging. Do not use the ointment beyond this date.

  • Is erythromycin over the counter?

    No, erythromycin ophthalmic ointment requires a prescription and is unavailable over the counter.

  • How much is erythromycin eye ointment without insurance?

    The cost may vary, but on average, it is around $16 for a 3.5-gram supply. Prices vary, so check with your local pharmacy for accurate pricing.

How to get erythromycin online

Step 1

Book an appointment to discuss erythromycin.

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Step 2

Talk to your doctor online about your bacterial infection symptoms.

Visit with a doctor on your smartphone or computer.

Step 3

Pick up your erythromycin medication, if prescribed.

Prescriptions are provided at the doctor’s discretion. We can send prescriptions to any local pharmacy.

Erythromycin pricing details

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Paying without insurance

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First month free

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30 days of free membership

  • Same-day appointments 7 days a week

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  • Exclusive discounts on lab tests

  • Free memberships for your family

  • Cancel anytime

Visit price without insurance

Initial visits are $129.

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Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a613018.html 

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Preventing the Spread of Conjunctivitis" Accessed on December 02, 2023 athttps://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/prevention.html

  3. Veterans Affairs. “ERYTHROMYCIN OINT, OPH ” Accessed on December 02, 2023 athttps://www.va.gov/formularyadvisor/drugs/4001577-ERYTHROMYCIN-OINT-OPH

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Treating Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)” Accessed on December 02, 2023 at https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/treatment.html

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Accessed on December 02, 2023 at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/erythromicin-on-stye

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Gonococcal Infections Among Neonates”  Accessed on December 02, 2023 at https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/gonorrhea-neonates.htm

  7. MPR - Medical Professionals Reference. “Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment” Accessed on December 02, 2023 at https://www.empr.com/drug/erythromycin-ophthalmic-ointment/

PlushCare content is reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals. Learn more about our editorial standards and meet the medical team. The PlushCare site or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.