Orbital cellulitis (soft tissue of eye)

Eyes | Ophthalmology | Orbital cellulitis (soft tissue of eye) (Disease)


The terms orbital cellulitis and periorbital cellulitis refer to an inflammation and infection of the tissue and skin surrounding the eye. Periorbital cellulitis involves the area from the skin of the eyelid to the bony area that encloses the eye. Orbital cellulitis is an infection that involves the eye and the eye structures within the bony cavity of the face.

Symptoms of orbital cellulitis may include painful swelling of upper and lower eyelid, and possibly the eyebrow and cheek, bluging eyes, decreased vision, eye pain, especially when moving the eye, fever, generally 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38,88 degrees Celsius) or higher, general feeling of discomfort, painful or difficult eye movements, shiny, red or purple eyelid.

Causes and Risk factors

Bacteria from a sinus infection (often Haemophilus influenzae) usually cause this condition in children. Orbital cellulitis due to this bacteria used to be much more common in young children up to age 6 - 7. However, such infection is now rare because of the HiB (Haemophilus influenzae B) vaccine.

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus , Streptococcus pneumoniae , and beta-hemolytic streptococci may also cause orbital cellulitis. Other causes include a stye on the eyelid, bug bites, or a recent eyelid injury. Orbital cellulitis infections in children may get worse very quickly and can lead to blindness.

Orbital cellulitis has various causes and may be associated with serious complications. As many as 11% of cases of orbital cellulitis result in visual loss. Prompt diagnosis and proper management are essential for curing the patient with orbital cellulitis.

Prior to the availability of antibiotics, patients with orbital cellulitis had a mortality rate of 17%, and 20% of survivors were blind in the affected eye. However, with prompt diagnosis and appropriate use of antibiotics, this rate has been reduced significantly.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood tests to determine the extent of disease and cultures to identify the bacteria may be done. A CT scan or MRI will delineate the severity and size of the infection, and possibly the primary source of infection such as sinusitis.

Aggressive treatment is required since an orbital cellulitis infection can get worse very quickly. intravenous antibiotics are generally administered. Surgery may be needed to drain the abscess.