Tobramycin for eye infections

  • Use these drops twice a day for seven days.
  • If your vision becomes blurred after using the drops, do not drive until you can see clearly again.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until your symptoms have completely gone.
Type of medicineAntibacterial eye preparation
Used forEye or eyelid infections
Also calledTobravisc®
Tobradex® (tobramycin with dexamethasone)
Available asEye drops

Tobramycin eye drops are used to treat bacterial infections of the eyes or eyelids. Tobramycin works by helping to kill the bacteria which are causing the infection.

Eye infections are a common cause of conjunctivitis. In conjunctivitis, your eye becomes inflamed, feels gritty, and may water more than usual. The white of your eye may look red, and your eyelids may become swollen and stuck together with a discharge when you wake up in the morning. Only one eye may be infected to begin with, but it often spreads to both eyes. Most cases of infective conjunctivitis clear within a week or so without treatment. For more severe infections, or for infections which do not clear on their own, an antibiotic eye drop such as tobramycin is used.

Tobramycin is also available combined with dexamethasone as eye drops called Tobradex®. This combination of tobramycin to prevent infection and dexamethasone which reduces inflammation, is used after cataract surgery.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using tobramycin it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to tobramycin or to any other antibiotic, or to any other eye drops.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.

Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the drops you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from using them. If your eyes have an obvious discharge or 'crust', it can help if you bathe them with cool clean water before using tobramycin.

  • Wash your hands well.
  • Remove the cap from the bottle.
  • Tilt your head back a little and pull the lower lid of your eye out to form a pocket.
  • Hold the bottle upside down near to your eye. Try not to touch your eye as you do this.
  • Gently press on the base of the bottle to release one drop into your eye.
  • Close your eye for a minute or two, and press gently on the side of your nose where the corner of your eye meets your nose. This helps to stop the drop from draining away and keeps it in your eye.
  • Repeat the process in your other eye if you have been asked to use the drops in both eyes.
  • Replace the cap.
  • Use these drops twice a day - in the morning and in the evening. (If your infection is particularly severe, your doctor may ask you to use the drops four times on the first day.) Try not to miss any doses. If you forget to put the drops in on time, do it as soon as you remember.
  • When you first put the drop into your eye, it may cause blurred vision. This should quickly clear, but make sure you can see clearly before you drive or use machines or tools.
  • You should use these drops for seven days unless your doctor has told you otherwise. If your infection is no better after this time, make another appointment to see your doctor for advice. If your symptoms become worse while you are using tobramycin, you should arrange to see your doctor for advice straightaway. In particular, see your doctor again if your eye becomes painful, if light starts to hurt your eyes, or if your sight is affected.
  • Take care to avoid spreading the infection from one eye to the other, and to other members of your family. Washing your hands regularly (particularly after touching your eyes), and not sharing towels or pillows will help to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Eye infections can cause your eyes to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Wearing sunglasses may help to prevent this.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until your symptoms have completely gone. Wait for 24 hours after the last dose of eye drops before using your lenses again.
  • If you are using any other eye drops or eye ointments, leave at least five minutes between applying each preparation.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common tobramycin side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who use these dropsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Watery eyes, itching, swelling, rednessIf these continue or become troublesome, speak with your doctor. They may be symptoms of the infection, or that you have an allergy to the drops

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to these eye drops, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Throw away the bottle of eye drops after you have finished the seven-day course of treatment, even if there is some left. Never keep opened bottles of eye drops to use later.
  • Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has swallowed some of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to use with your other medicines.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are using.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Tobravisc® 3.0 mg/ml Eye Drops Solution,; Manufacturer's PIL, Tobravisc® 3.0 mg/ml Eye Drops Solution, Alcon Laboratories (U.K) Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated October 2009.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
13869 (v1)
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