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Orbital Cellulitis


What is orbital cellulitis?

Orbital cellulitis is an infection inside your eye socket (the bony area that surrounds your eye). It is caused by bacteria or a fungus.

Cellulitis of the Eye

What increases my risk for orbital cellulitis?

  • A sinus infection
  • An eye injury, such as a cut, scratch, or foreign object
  • A deep tooth infection
  • Skin infection on your face or around your eye
  • Recent eye surgery

What are the signs and symptoms of orbital cellulitis?

  • Red, swollen, painful eye and eyelid
  • Fever and tiredness
  • Painful eye movements
  • Trouble moving your eye
  • Blurred, double, or loss of vision
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Bulging eyeball

How is orbital cellulitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your eye, nose, and face. You may need any of the following:

  • Vision test: This test checks your vision, eye movement, and eye pressure.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to check what germ caused your infection.
  • Fluid cultures: You may need fluid collected from your eye to learn which germs have caused the infection.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your eye. The pictures may show swelling, abscess, or rupture (tear). You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your eye. An MRI may show tissue infection and blood clots. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is orbital cellulitis treated?

You will need to stay in the hospital to treat orbital cellulitis. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine helps treat the infection. It is usually given through your IV. You may need antibiotics for up to 10 days.
    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
    • Steroids: This medicine helps decrease eye inflammation.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery to drain your sinuses if your infection does not improve.

What are the risks of orbital cellulitis?

Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection that can worsen even with prompt treatment. The infection may spread deeper in the eye socket or spread to the other eye. This can lead to blindness. If the infection spreads to the brain, life-threatening blood clots or an infection can develop.

How can orbital cellulitis be prevented?

  • Wear proper safety equipment: Protect your face from injury during sports and other activities.
  • Keep wounds clean and dry: Clean wounds on the face with soap and water. Cover wounds with a dry bandage.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest: Rest as often as directed. Slowly do more each day.
  • Apply heat: A warm, damp cloth will soothe the eye area. Use as often as directed.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have redness or swelling in or around your eye.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a headache and stuffy nose. You may also feel pain and tenderness around the eyes, nose, and forehead.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You feel confused or more sleepy than usual.
  • Your forehead is numb.
  • You have a stiff neck and vomiting.
  • You are seeing double or your vision is blurred.
  • You notice vision loss.
  • You cannot move your eye.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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