A Serious Eye Infection
Periorbital cellulitis is an infection of the soft tissues around the eye. It consists of two different types of infection. One involves the skin and tissues of the eye and the other involves the tear duct. When infection involves the eye and its socket, it is an "orbital cellulitis." Because the eye, sinuses, nasal mucosa, and brain are all very close to each other, a periorbital cellulitis is a serious infection. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Bad But Not as Bad
People with a periorbital cellulitis can have a red, swollen eyelid, swelling next to the eye, an infection of the white part of the eye (conjunctivitis) and tears that run down their face because the tear duct is blocked. They do not normally have a fever, significant eyeball pain, a bulging eyeball, decreased vision, paralysis of the muscles that move the eye or a severe headache. These are signs of an orbital infection, one that is beyond the surrounding tissues and actually in the eye and its socket.
How Eye Infection Starts
The causes of periorbital cellulitis are the spread of an infection, a local infection that worsens. The trauma is often in the form of an insect bite that becomes infected or causes a severe allergic response. The local infections can be a typical "pink eye," a conjunctivitis caused by staph or strep. The infections that spread to the area around the eye include middle ear infections, sinus infections and infections of the nasopharyngeal mucosa.
Nothing to Fool With
Do not ignore a periorbital cellulitis infection. This is particularly true for children and ABSOLUTELY true for younger children. Further, if there are any symptoms that even suggest the possibility of an orbital cellulitis, the condition becomes a medical emergency. Treatment of periorbital cellulitis almost always involves antibiotics. If the infection is mild, oral antibiotics may suffice. The more serious cases of periorbital cellulitis and all cases of orbital cellulitis require intravenous antibiotics. In some cases, for example, if there is an abscess, surgery can be necessary. Your personal physician may want to involve a specialist in the area of ENT or ophthalmology.
The Miracle of Antibiotics
With early treatment, the majority of cases of periorbital cellulitis resolve. This is even true for most cases of orbital cellulitis. The major complications of periorbital cellulitis are meningitis, loss of vision, blood clots in the brain or brain abscesses.