• What Is Cellulitis?

    Written by: Kierstan Boyd
    Reviewed by: Stephen N Lipsky MD
    Oct. 11, 2015

    Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of tissue that can affect both the eyes and skin. Cellulitis affecting the eyes occurs in two forms: orbital and preseptal.

    Orbital cellulitis affects the structures within the space containing the eyeball and can affect eye movement (due to swelling of the lids or eye). This form is more serious and usually calls for more aggressive treatment.

    Pre-septum cellulitis is restricted to eyelid tissue and is generally less serious. The vast majority of pre-septal cellulitis cases occur in children, especially young children.

    Cellulitis is frequently caused by a staph or strep infection. It is not unusual for the infection to start in the sinuses and then spread to the orbit or eyelid. Skin wounds or recent surgery (including dental surgery) can also lead to infection. It is important to clean any wounds carefully and follow any instructions your doctor or dentist may have given you for postoperative care.

    One of the characteristics of cellulitis is that it spreads rapidly, which makes it a very serious infection requiring immediate medical care. Prior to the use of antibiotics to treat cellulitis, both blindness and death were common among people who contracted the infection.

    If you think you or your child have cellulitis, don't delay in seeing your doctor. Left untreated, cellulitis can permanently reduce your vision or spread into the body's vascular system and cause more serious harm.