What is Periorbital Cellulitis?

Periorbital Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a deep skin infection caused by the penetration of bacteria through a break in the skin. The ‘periorbital’ area includes the structures covered by skin, which surround the eyeball. Thus, periorbital cellulitis is an infection that occurs near the eyes.

In the vast majority of cases, these infections are benign; however, they do present the risk of spreading to the orbital cavity and progress into orbital cellulitis, which can lead to serious complications. Generally, periorbital cellulitis is more common in children than in adults.

Main Causes of Periorbital Cellulitis

The most common causes of acute periorbital cellulitis are Staph or Strep bacteria. Historically and in children particularly, another type of bacteria, called Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), can be the causal agent for this condition. Fortunately, the vaccination program against Hib, has dramatically reduced this type of infection.

Trauma to the eyelid and to the skin around this area increases the chances of developing an infection. Additionally, an insect bite that has been scratched can create a breach in the skin barrier and facilitate the penetration of bacteria.


Typical Signs and Treatment

The most common symptoms of periorbital cellulitis are swelling and redness in the affected area. There may also be a cut or a scratch around the eye. The skin in this area will usually feel tender to touch. Additionally, the skin may feel tough.

Periorbital cellulitis usually doesn’t cause a fever. A doctor can make a quick diagnosis. He/she will usually examine the eyes to look for any signs of complications. Additionally, they may collect a blood sample to confirm the infection.

Treatment usually consists of antibiotics. These are usually given orally but are also available intravenously.

periorbital cellulitis images


Potential Complications

Although this condition is usually benign, there are a number of potential complications that can arise. A serious complication known as orbital cellulitis can occur. This is where the infection may threaten the integrity of eye structures. This condition causes severe pain and fever. Orbital cellulitis can cause vision loss.

Some cases may require surgery if an abscess has developed. However, the majority of risks can be mitigated if treatment begins early. As orbital cellulitis can develop quickly, seeking the help of a medical professional at the first signs, is essential.


Preventive Measures

Reducing your chances of developing periorbital cellulitis is pretty straightforward. The condition mainly spreads through contact.

It is important to follow basic hygiene rules on a daily basis. This means washing hands thoroughly with soap and avoiding to touch the eye area.

Since the condition affects children more frequently, they need to be taught how to stay clean. Furthermore, they should have their eyes regularly inspected for any signs of infection.

It is essential to treat any insect bites or minor injuries as soon as they occur to maintain a healthy skin barrier.

Image credit: DepositPhotos.com

Last article update: 9/20/2019

Medically reviewed by Dr. Thouria Bensaoula on Sept 20, 2019.