What is Eye Cellulitis?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Eye cellulitis, also referred to as ocular cellulitis, relates to the irritation and infection of the tissue surrounding the eye. Cellulitis starts in an area of broken skin where bacteria can enter the eye, causing inflammation. Two types of eye cellulitis — periorbital and orbital — exist. Both periorbital and orbital celllulitis typically start with swelling or inflammation in one eye, and may spread to the other eye. Eye cellulitis is often easily treated. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Periorbital cellulitis makes up nearly 90 percent of eye cellulitis cases, and is common in children under the age of 5. Also known as preseptal cellulitis, perioribital cellulitis affects the soft tissue around the eye. This type of cellulitis is the result of bacteria covering the outer area of the eye or a sinus infection. Periorbital cellulitis usually does not advance to orbital cellulitis because the septum protects the eye socket.

More severe than periorbital cellulitis, orbital cellulitis occurs in about 10 percent of the cases of ocular cellulitis. Orbital cellulitis often affects young children, who may be vulnerable to infections. In severe cases, the condition may degenerate quickly and if left untreated, may result in blindness or even death.


Typically, eye cellulitis is caused by the bacteria staphulococcus aureus, streptococcus pyogene, or haemophilus influenzae. The bacteria get in the eyes through direct trauma, such as bug bites or scratches, or can be spread from other areas, like the sinus cavities. Symptoms of eye cellulitis include swelling and redness of the upper and lower eyelids, discomfort, fever, and a decrease in vision. Other symptoms may include bulging eyes or pain when making eye movements.

A diagnosis of eye cellulitis is made by consulting a physician. Common tests include a complete blood culture, a complete blood count, and a throat culture. Other ways of diagnosing the condition include an X-ray of the sinuses and adjacent area, and a computed tomography scan, or CAT scan, which can provide a detailed picture of the severity of the infection.

To treat periorbital cellulitis, oral antibiotics will typically be prescribed. For orbital cellulitis, hospitalization may be required. In the hospital, antibiotics are given through an IV and the patient is closely monitored. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to drain the sinuses and reduce any swelling of the eye, or if a person does not respond to antibiotics. If a person is suffering from eye soreness and has red and puffy lower eyelids, it is recommended to see a doctor before any long-term health issues set in.


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Post 2

@ocelot60- Don't forget the importance of practicing certain precautions if you are around anyone with eye cellulitis. Wash your hands frequently, and keep them away from your face!

Post 1

I use to help out at a child daycare center, and eye cellulitis was common among the toddlers. The symptoms can get pretty bad, especially if you wait to seek treatment.

The bottom line is that if suspect your child may be developing cellulitis of the eye, you should take him her to a doctor for prompt medical treatment. This will prevent the problem from getting worse and spreading to other areas and other children.

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