Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection of the bony cavity in which the eyeball sits, which 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 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.
There are several common causes of orbital cellulitis:
Children are at high risk of severe infections from orbital cellulitis that could result in blindness. For this reason, they should be given medical attention right away. In young children, the infection is often caused by a sinus infection due to a organism called Haemophilus influenzae.
Factors that increase your risk of getting orbital cellulitis include:
Symptoms of orbital cellulitis include:
Doctors can often recognize orbital cellulitis by examining your eyes, teeth, and mouth. Your medical and family history will be taken. You may also have the following tests done:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Orbital cellulitis can worsen quickly. Often it requires hospitalization. Treatment for orbital cellulitis includes:
If you are diagnosed with orbital cellulitis, follow your doctor's instructions.
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 infections.
National Eye Institute
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
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Beers MH, Fletcher AJ, Jones TV, et al, eds. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 2nd ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2003.
Orbital cellulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated November 13, 2012. Accessed March 25, 2013.
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Periorbital cellulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 14, 2010. Accessed March 25, 2013.
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Last Updated: 3/25/2013
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