Cellulitis of the eye requires special attention because its symptoms and potential risks are more specific compared to cellulitis in other parts of the body. There are actually two kinds of cellulitis that affect the eye: periorbital cellulitis and orbital cellulitis. Basically, periorbital cellulitis is the inflammation and infection of the skin tissue and other structures surrounding the eye. On the other hand, orbital cellulitis is the inflammation and infection that occurs in the eye itself and the eye socket or internal eye structures in the bony cavity. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment of periorbital and orbital cellulitis.
The common types of bacteria that cause cellulitis of the eye include streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Haemophilus influenzae. These can spread from other areas such as the sinuses to the eye and can easily enter through a damaged eye. Because both periorbital and orbital cellulitis affect the eye, it causes a potentially high risk for serious complications and even death in individuals who do not treat the condition accordingly.
The signs and symptoms of periorbital cellulitis include the common signs of cellulitis in general: swelling, warmth, redness, and pain. These symptoms are most likely to first appear on the eyelid and skin surrounding the eye. When periorbital cellulitis is in its early stages of infection, it may cause periodontal aches and swelling as well as nasal discharge. Worse infections can cause more swelling and redness on the eyelid, vision problems, headaches, fever, and malaise.
Orbital cellulitis is characterized by inflammation of the soft tissues located in the orbit of the eye posterior to the orbital septum. The infection can be spread from the sinuses and periorbital cellulitis. Orbital cellulitis is generally more severe and serious than periorbital cellulitis. Its sings and symptoms include pain with eye movement, periorbital swelling, loss of colour vision, orbital pain, conjunctivitis and chemosis, and fever. If left untreated, the condition can cause loss of sight and cerebral complications.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that cellulitis of the eye is very much linked to sinus problems. Because there is not a large barrier between the eyes and the nose, rim of the eyes and base of the brain, infection can easily occur in the eyes if a sinus problem is present. One condition linked to cellulitis of the eye is cavernous sinus thrombosis, which is the blockage of a large vein in the cavernous sinus. The result of this infection is swollen eyes, drowsiness, headaches, fever, weak muscles, seizures, or coma.
Treatment of both periorbital and orbital cellulitis initially involves a proper diagnosis, which mainly consists of analysis of symptoms, analysis of medical history, physical exams, blood tests, and CT scans. The typical medication prescribed for cellulitis of the eyes is antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed for mild infections, while IV antibiotics are needed for severe cases. Eye drops/ointments and oral painkillers are also used with the antibiotics to relieve symptoms.
Because cellulitis of the eyes poses a higher risk of severe complications and death, the condition must not be left untreated. Mild cases need to be administered with antibiotics right away after proper diagnosis. Furthermore, severe cases should be treated as an emergency.