Cellulitis is an infection of soft tissues (like fat and muscle tissue). It can occur in any soft tissue, anywhere in the body.
When cellulitis affects the eyes, it is called ocular cellulitis. There are two forms of ocular cellulitis -
periorbital and orbital. Both of these conditions usually begin with swelling or inflammation of one eye, which may or may not spread to the other eye.
Periorbital cellulitis, or preseptal cellulitis, is an infection of the soft tissues surrounding the eye. It is usually caused by an infection, such as conjunctivitis (pinkeye), which spreads from the membrane covering the outer part of the eye or from a bacterial infection of the nose or sinuses. Periorbital cellulitis, which accounts for 85-90% of all ocular cellulitis cases, is most prevalent among children under the age of five. Periorbital cellulitis cannot progress to orbital cellulitis because the septum serves as a protective fibrous barrier for the orbit (eye socket).
Orbital cellulitis is an infection of the soft tissue in the eye socket. The disease starts in the ethmoid sinus and the infection spreads into the subperiosteal lining of the orbit through the ethmoid bone. This form is considered more serious than periorbital cellulitis because it can cause permanent damage eye damage. In severe cases the infection can spread to the optic nerve, causing impaired vision. Orbital cellulitis is responsible for the remaining 10-15% of ocular cellulitis cases. This form is most common in children over the age of five.
The incidence of severe orbital cellulitis has decreased steadily since the introduction of HiB vaccine (Haemophilus influenzae type B). H. influenzae is a widespread bacteria that is present in about 75% of people. However, individuals who have healthy immune systems do not experience symptoms of the disease. Therefore, children (up to 12 months old) and individuals who have compromised immune systems typically experience the most benefit from the vaccine. The patient receives one immunization, administered intravenously, during his/her lifetime.
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