Orbital Cellulitis

Definition

Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection of the bony cavity in which the eyeball sits and the muscles and soft tissues that surround the eyeball. This cavity is called the orbit. It is surrounded by sinuses. The sinuses are the hollow areas of the skull around the nose.

Orbital cellulitis affects not only the eye, but also the eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks. It causes the eyeball to have a swollen appearance. If the infection is not treated, it can lead to blindness and nerve damage of the face.

Eyeball in Orbit
Eye bone socket nerve
The cavity below the eye is a sinus, the most common place for the infection to start.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Orbital cellulitis is caused by certain bacteria.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of getting orbital cellulitis include:

  • Age: Children are at high risk of severe infections that could result in blindness
  • Infections that spread from areas surrounding the eye, such as the eyelids, sinuses, mouth and teeth, and face
  • Infections that spread from the bloodstream
  • Injury or surgery in the area
  • Stye on the eyelid
  • Bug bite or sting to the eyelid

Symptoms

Symptoms of orbital cellulitis include:

  • Bulging eye
  • Painful eye movements
  • Tender or warm tissues around the eye
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Difficulty seeing when the eyelid is swollen
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Double vision
  • Blurry vision

Diagnosis

Doctors can often recognize orbital cellulitis by examining your eyes, teeth, and mouth. Your medical and family history will be taken.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Testing samples from the lining of your eye, nose, and throat

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

Treatment

Orbital cellulitis can worsen quickly. It usually requires hospitalization. Treatment for orbital cellulitis includes:

  • Antibiotics to treat the infection. They will be started right away, even before results from the laboratory have come back. Antibiotics will usually be given through an IV for at least several days. Antibiotics may then be given by mouth for a total of 2-3 weeks.
  • Diuretics or eye drops are given to help decrease pressure within the eyeball.
  • Oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain
  • Surgery may be performed to drain a pus collection from an infected sinus or orbit.

If you are diagnosed with orbital cellulitis, follow your doctor's instructions.

Prevention

Treating sinus or dental infections right away may prevent them from spreading to the eyes. In addition, children should be protected with the Hib B vaccine, which will prevent most of the Haemophilus influenzae type B infections.

Revisions

Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.