Cellulitis is a type of infection that usually affects the skin. This infection can occur anywhere on the body, including around the eyes. When cellulitis develops in the eye area, it is vital that an accurate diagnosis is obtained. Two types of cellulitis may appear to affect the eyelid: preseptal cellulitis and orbital cellulitis. To treat infection appropriately and avoid serious health implications, it is necessary to know which type of cellulitis has developed.

Preseptal cellulitis is localized in the skin of the eyelid. Usually, we see this type of infection in young children.

Orbital cellulitis affects the eye socket. This potentially serious condition can prevent eye movement and present a risk of death. Therefore, orbital cellulitis is typically treated with more aggressive means than preseptal infection.

What can cause cellulitis around the eyes?

Cellulitis often results from bacteria or fungus. Infection may originate with:

  • A sinus infection
  • An insect bite
  • A scratch or other wound on the face (including incisions)
  • Facial, head, or neck surgery (including dental work)
  • Asthma

Signs of Cellulitis

It is critical that the symptoms of cellulitis be addressed right away. This type of infection tends to spread quickly. A medical examination should be scheduled if symptoms such as the following occur:

  • Redness of the eyelid
  • Fever
  • Eyelid swelling, including tissue around the eye
  • Double vision or blurry vision
  • Difficulty moving the eye
  • Bulging of the eye
  • Lethargy or general lack of energy

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you see a doctor for any of the above symptoms, a thorough physical examination will be conducted. The eyes will be an integral part of the evaluation. To determine the type of infection that has developed, imaging, tissue sampling, and labs may also be ordered.

Preseptal cellulitis that involves only tissue around and on the eyelid is usually treated with oral antibiotics and may begin to improve within a day or two (it is essential that the entire course of antibiotics is taken).

Due to the severe nature of orbital cellulitis, inpatient care is usually necessary. In the hospital, patients can receive adequate antibiotic dosing via IV. If necessary, fluid may be drained from the infected area.

Dr. Fante performs cosmetic and reconstructive eye procedures, including treatment for orbital cellulitis. To learn more, contact us online or call our Denver office at (303) 839-1616.