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 the 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.
If the infection is not treated, it can lead to blindness and nerve damage of the face.
Eyeball in Orbit
The cavity below the eye is a sinus, the most common place for the infection to start.
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Orbital cellulitis is caused by specific bacteria.
This condition is more common in children. Factors that increase the risk of getting orbital cellulitis include: Infections that spread from areas surrounding the eye, such as the eyelids, sinuses, mouth and teeth, and faceInfections that spread from the bloodstreamInjury or surgery in the areaStye
on the eyelidBug bite or sting to the eyelid
Symptoms of orbital cellulitis include: Bulging eyePainful eye movementsTender or warm tissues around the eyeSwollen eyelidsDifficulty seeing when the eyelid is swollenFeverHeadacheRunny noseDouble visionBlurry vision
Orbital cellulitis can often be diagnosed by examining the eyes, teeth, and mouth. Your medical and family history will be taken.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsTesting samples from the lining of your eye, nose, and throat
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: CT scan
MRI scanX-ray of your sinuses and orbit
Orbital cellulitis can worsen quickly. It usually requires hospitalization.
Medication used to treat orbital cellulitis include: Antibiotics to treat the infectionDiuretics or eye drops
to help decrease pressure within the eyeballOral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain
In some cases, surgery may be done to drain a pus collection from an infected sinus or orbit.
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.
Distinguishing periorbital from orbital cellulitis. American Family Physician website. Available at:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0315/p1349a.html. Accessed May 26, 2015.
Orbital cellulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 15, 2014. Accessed May 26, 2015.
Givner LB. Periorbital versus orbital cellulitis.
Ped Infect Dis J. 2002;21(12):1157-1158.
1/5/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Pushker N, Tejwani LK, Bajaj MS, Khurana S, Velpandian T, Chandra M. Role of oral corticosteroids in orbital cellulitis. Am J Ophthalmol. 2013;156(1):178-183.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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