Periorbital Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a condition which affects the skin tissue, an infection caused by various types of bacteria. Preseptal cellulitis, which is also known as periorbital cellulitis, occurs on or around the eyelid. This type of skin infection is usually characterized by inflammation, redness, warmth and varying degrees of pain. Adults may develop this condition, however, eyelid type of this medical condition is more common in children.


Signs and Symptoms

The signs are typically localized near the eyes. Systematic symptoms such as fever may be present as well. The most common local symptom is swelling and redness of the upper or lower eyelid. Other symptoms include mild to severe pain, eye discomfort and warmth on the skin’s surface. Some individuals may develop chemosis, which is swelling in the whites of the eyes. Conjunctivitis, or redness in the eye whites, may also result from periorbital cellulitis.



Periorbital cellulitis is often caused by a bacterial infection on the skin. Staphylococcus and streptococcus are the most common forms of bacteria that cause the condition in adults. In the past, the Haemophilus influenzae type B bacteria was the most common source of this medical skin condition in children. With the introduction of the Haemophilus influenzae vaccine, the risk of infection in children has decreased considerably.


Risk Factors and Potential Complications

Certain factors can increase the chances of bacteria developing. In some cases, an infection of the upper respiratory tract may result in periorbital cellulitis. Trauma to the eyelid may also trigger the condition. In certain instances, a spider or other insect bite can be a contributing factor as well. Generally, once the skin of the eyelid is broken, there is a chance of bacteria being developed in the soft tissues.

Typically, periorbital cellulitis is less severe than the infection in the orbital area. Serious complication are rare, however, some individuals may be more at risk than others. Common complications that can occur with this particular type of infection include loss of vision, meningitis and an abscess of the brain. These risks can be notably reduced with proper observation and prompt treatment.



A medical exam is the first step in making an accurate diagnosis. The patient’s medical history and overall physical health are observed. Some physicians also take cultures of the fluid that drains from the eyes. Various blood tests verify the presence of bacteria as well.
A physician may also order an X-ray or CT scan for the patient. CT scans use computer technology to create detailed images of the entire body, including muscles and organs. This type of imaging can show the full extent of the bacterial infection.



Periorbital cellulitis is typically managed through medication. Treatment depends on the person’s age, medical history, health and extent of the condition. Oral antibiotics may be given to adults, while intravenous medication may be administered to children.

Adults with severe symptoms may also take intravenous antibiotics. Anyone who is allergic to penicillin should speak with a medical practitioner before taking these antibiotics.

Trusted Web Resources
Merck Manual
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