What is Eyelid Cellulitis?

J.L. Drede
J.L. Drede
Swelling of the eyelid may be a symptom of eyelid cellulitis.
Swelling of the eyelid may be a symptom of eyelid cellulitis.

Eyelid cellulitis is an infection of the eyelid. There are two variations of the condition: perseptal cellulitis and orbital cellulitis. A prespetal, or periorbital, infection is an infection of the eyelid itself and the surrounding skin. An orbital infection is an infection that spreads past the eyelid into the tissue of the posterior section of the eye. While both are serious infections that usually require medical treatment, orbital cellulitis is the more serious of the two. It can cause blindness, or even death, if not treated immediately.

Diagnosis of eyelid cellulitis is done by clinical examination.
Diagnosis of eyelid cellulitis is done by clinical examination.

Infections of the eye are not usually caused by direct injury. More often, eyelid cellulitis begins as a sinus infection that spreads to the eyes. Strep and staph infections are the most common. Fungi can also cause certain types of eye infections, but this is far less common. Usually an infection of the eye caused by a type of fungus only happens in those with an immune disorder or diabetes.

Using old mascara can introduce bacteria into the eyes and cause eyelid inflammation.
Using old mascara can introduce bacteria into the eyes and cause eyelid inflammation.

Symptoms for both types of eyelid cellulitis are similar at first and include swelling, warmth, redness, followed by an inability to open the eye completely. However, orbital infections quickly develop additional symptoms that show how serious the condition is. The swelling and redness will usually spread to the surrounding area, forcing the eye to swell shut. Eye movement will become incredibly painful, and if the person can open their eye they will notice a decrease in vision.

Orbital cellulitis can lead to blindness if left untreated.
Orbital cellulitis can lead to blindness if left untreated.

The formation of abscesses, which are puss-filled cavities, surrounding the eye may occur as well. An orbital infection of the eye can spread quickly, leading to meningitis, and the symptoms associated with that condition, such as fever, headaches and disorientation. Meningitis, which is a swelling of the brain and spinal cord, can be fatal. Furthermore, damage cause by an advanced orbital cellulitis can lead to loss of vision in the affected eye.

Symptoms of eyelid cellulitis may include eye redness.
Symptoms of eyelid cellulitis may include eye redness.

Diagnosis is done by clinical examination. If the only visible signs of infection are in the eyelid, then a diagnosis of preseptal cellulitis is usually made. If the infection has shown signs of spreading to other parts of the eye, or if the patient is exhibiting more severe symptoms, then a doctor may do a CT or MRI scan to determine the severity of the infection.

A CT scan may be ordered to determine the severity of eyelid cellulitis.
A CT scan may be ordered to determine the severity of eyelid cellulitis.

If a diagnosis of perseptal eyelid cellulitis is made, a doctor may still have the patient stay overnight in hospital just to make sure the infection does not spread. During this time, and for several days after, the patient will be prescribed antibiotics to help fight off the infection and prevent further damage. After the infection has appeared to vanish, additional check ups are often by made to ensure all traces of cellulitis have been removed and the eye has fully recovered. In most cases there are no long term side effects to perseptal cellulitis.

Some eye infections may cause headaches.
Some eye infections may cause headaches.

If a diagnosis of orbital eyelid cellulitis is made, then the patient will most likely be admitted to the hospital for emergency treatment. Strong antibiotics to fight the eye infection are given, as are antibiotics for meningitis as a precautionary measure. In extreme cases of infection, surgery might be performed to remove the infected areas. The sooner an orbital infection is treated, the less likely serious side effects, such as permanent vision loss, will occur. If left untreated, an orbital infection of the eye, and the meningitis that usually follows, will be fatal.

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    • Swelling of the eyelid may be a symptom of eyelid cellulitis.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Swelling of the eyelid may be a symptom of eyelid cellulitis.
    • Diagnosis of eyelid cellulitis is done by clinical examination.
      By: arztsamui
      Diagnosis of eyelid cellulitis is done by clinical examination.
    • Using old mascara can introduce bacteria into the eyes and cause eyelid inflammation.
      By: bedya
      Using old mascara can introduce bacteria into the eyes and cause eyelid inflammation.
    • Orbital cellulitis can lead to blindness if left untreated.
      By: FotolEdhar
      Orbital cellulitis can lead to blindness if left untreated.
    • Symptoms of eyelid cellulitis may include eye redness.
      By: djtaylor
      Symptoms of eyelid cellulitis may include eye redness.
    • A CT scan may be ordered to determine the severity of eyelid cellulitis.
      By: Tyler Olson
      A CT scan may be ordered to determine the severity of eyelid cellulitis.
    • Some eye infections may cause headaches.
      By: olly
      Some eye infections may cause headaches.