Periorbital cellulitis

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Periorbital cellulitis is an infection of the eyelid or skin around the eye.

Alternative Names

Preseptal cellulitis


Periorbital cellulitis commonly affects children under 18 months old, though it can occur at any age.

This infection can occur after a scratch, injury, or bug bite around the eye, which allows germs to enter the wound. It can also extend from a nearby site that is infected, such as the sinuses.


Symptoms include:

  • Redness around the eye or in the white part of the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelid, whites of eyes, and surrounding area

This condition does not often affect vision or cause eye pain.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will examine the eye and ask about the symptoms.

Tests that may be ordered include:


Antibiotics are given by mouth, by shots, or through a vein (intravenously; IV) to help fight the infection.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Periorbital cellulitis almost always improves with treatment. In rare cases, the infection spreads into the eye socket, the tissues that surround the eye, and the eyeball itself. This infection is called orbital cellulitis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if:

  • The eye becomes red or swollen
  • Symptoms get worse after treatment
  • Fever develops along with eye symptoms
  • It is difficult or painful to move the eye
  • The eye looks like it is sticking (bulging) out
  • There are vision changes


Durand ML. Periocular infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 118.

Olitsky SE, Hug D, Plummer LS, Stahl ED, Ariss MM, Lindquist TP. Orbital infections. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW III, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 634.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 12/10/2015
  • Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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