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Periorbital cellulitis

Periorbital cellulitis is an infection of the eyelid or skin around the eye.

Causes

Periorbital cellulitis can occur at any age, but more commonly affects children younger than 5 years old.

This infection can occur after a scratch, injury, or bug bite around the eye, which allows germs to enter the wound. It can also extend from a nearby site that is infected, such as the sinuses.

Periorbital cellulitis is different than orbital cellulitis, which is an infection of the fat and muscles around the eye. Orbital cellulitis is a dangerous infection, which can cause lasting problems and deeper infections.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Redness around the eye or in the white part of the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelid, whites of eyes, and surrounding area

This condition does not often affect vision or cause eye pain.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will examine the eye and ask about the symptoms.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

Antibiotics are given by mouth, by shots, or through a vein (intravenously; IV) to help fight the infection.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Periorbital cellulitis almost always improves with treatment. In rare cases, the infection spreads into the eye socket, resulting in orbital cellulitis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if:

  • The eye becomes red or swollen
  • Symptoms get worse after treatment
  • Fever develops along with eye symptoms
  • It is difficult or painful to move the eye
  • The eye looks like it is sticking (bulging) out
  • There are vision changes

Alternative Names

Preseptal cellulitis

References

Durand ML. Periocular infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 116.

Olitsky SE, Marsh JD, Jackson MA. Orbital infections. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 652.

Review Date 11/9/2019

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.