Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection of the eye socket, which is called the orbit. The orbit is a bony cavity in which the eyeball sits. It is surrounded by sinuses. The sinuses are the hollow areas of the skull around the nose.
Orbital cellulitis affects not only the eye, but the eyelids, eyebrows, and cheeks. It causes the eyeball to have a swollen appearance. If the infection is not treated, it can lead to blindness.
There are several common causes of orbital cellulitis:
- Infections that spread from areas around the eye including:
- Sinuses (this is the most common reason)
- Mouth and teeth
- Infections that spread from the bloodstream
- Injury or surgery in the area
- Stye on the eyelid
- Bug bite or sting to the eyelid
Children are at high risk of severe infections from orbital cellulites that could result in blindness. For this reason, they should be given immediate medical attention. In young children, the infection is often caused by a sinus infection due to a organism called Hemopuilus influenzae.
A risk factor is something that increases the chance of getting a disease or condition. Some risk factors for orbital cellulitis include:
- Injury to the eyelid
- Sinus infection
Symptoms of orbital cellulites include:
- Bulging eye
- Painful eye movements
- Tender or warm tissues around the eye
- Swollen eyelids
- Difficulty seeing when eyelid is swollen
- Not feeling well
- Runny nose
Doctors can often recognize orbital cellulitis by examining your eyes, teeth, and mouth. However, to determine the cause of the infection, you may be given the following tests or examinations:
- Medical history, which includes questions about your diet, medications, use of corrective lenses, and family history of diabetes
- Complete blood count
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan or MRI of your sinuses and orbit
- X-ray of your sinuses and orbit
- Samples from the lining of your eye, nose, throat, blood may be sent to the laboratory for testing and culture
- Spinal tap in very sick children
Orbital cellulitis can worsen quickly. Often it requires hospitalization. Treatment for orbital cellulitis includes:
- Antibiotics are given to treat the infection. They will be started immediately, even before results from the laboratory have come back. Antibiotics are generally given by mouth for three weeks. If the infection is serious, the first week of antibiotics will be given through an intravenous drip.
- Nasal decongestants to help sinus drainage if patient has sinusitis
- Diuretics to help decrease pressure within the eyeball
- Surgery may be performed to drain pus collection or an infected sinus cavity
Treating sinus or dental infections promptly may prevent them from spreading to the eyes. In addition, children should be protected with the HiB B vaccine, which will prevent most of the Hemophhilus influenzae infections.