Orbital cellulitis is an infection of the fat and muscles around the eye. It affects the eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks. It may begin suddenly or be a result of an infection that gradually becomes worse.
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Orbital cellulitis is a dangerous infection, which can cause lasting problems. Orbital cellulitis is different than periorbital cellulitis, which is an infection of the eyelid or skin around the eye.
In children, it often starts out as a bacterial sinus infection from Haemophilus influenza. The infection used to be more common in young children, under the age of 7. It is now rare due to a vaccine that helps prevent this infection.
The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and beta-hemolytic streptococci may also cause orbital cellulitis.
Orbital cellulitis infections in children may get worse very quickly and can lead to blindness. Medical care is needed right away.
Symptoms may include:
Painful swelling of upper and lower eyelid, and possibly the eyebrow and cheek
Orbital cellulitis is a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away. Call your health care provider if there are signs of eyelid swelling, especially with a fever.
Getting scheduled HiB vaccine shots will prevent the infection in most children. Young children who share a household with a person who has this infection may need to take antibiotics to avoid getting sick.
Prompt treatment of a sinus or dental infection may prevent it from spreading and becoming orbital cellulitis.
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.