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Kara C. LaMattina

, MD, Boston University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Endophthalmitis is an acute panuveitis resulting most often from bacterial infection.

Most cases of endophthalmitis are caused by gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis or S. aureus. Endophthalmitis caused by gram-negative organisms tends to be more virulent and has a worse prognosis. Fungal and protozoan causes of endophthalmitis are rare. Most cases occur after intraocular surgery (exogenous) or penetrating ocular trauma. Less commonly, infection reaches the eye via the bloodstream after systemic surgery or dental procedures or when IV lines or IV drugs are used (endogenous). (See also Overview of Uveitis Overview of Uveitis Uveitis is defined as inflammation of the uveal tract—the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. However, the retina and fluid within the anterior chamber and vitreous are often involved as well.... read more Overview of Uveitis .)

Endophthalmitis is a medical emergency because vision prognosis is directly related to the time from onset to treatment. Rarely, untreated intraocular infections extend beyond the confines of the eye to involve the orbit and CNS.

Exogenous endophthalmitis typically causes severe ocular ache and decreased vision. Signs include

  • Intense conjunctival hyperemia and intraocular inflammation within the anterior chamber and vitreous

  • Loss of the red reflex

  • Eyelid edema (occasionally)

Diagnosis of Endophthalmitis

  • Clinical evaluation

  • Microbiologic testing (eg, gram stain and culture of aspirates for endogenous endophthalmitis, blood and urine cultures)

Diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion in at-risk patients, especially those with recent eye surgery or trauma. Gram stain and culture of aspirates from the anterior chamber and vitreous are standard. Patients with suspected endogenous endophthalmitis should also have blood and urine cultures.

Treatment of Endophthalmitis

  • Intravitreal antibiotics

  • For endogenous endophthalmitis, intravitreal and IV antimicrobials

  • In severe cases, possible vitrectomy and intraocular corticosteroids

Initial treatment includes broad-spectrum intravitreal antibiotics, most commonly vancomycin and ceftazidime. Patients with endogenous endophthalmitis should receive both intravitreal and IV antimicrobials. Therapy is modified based on culture and sensitivity results.

Vision prognosis is often poor, even with early and appropriate treatment. Patients whose vision at presentation is count-fingers or worse should be considered for vitrectomy and use of intraocular corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are, however, contraindicated in fungal endophthalmitis.

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