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Preseptal Cellulitis

(Periorbital Cellulitis)

By James Garrity, MD, Whitney and Betty MacMillan Professor of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

Preseptal cellulitis is infection of the eyelid and skin and tissues around the front of the eye.

Both preseptal cellulitis and orbital cellulitis are more common among children. Preseptal cellulitis is far more common than orbital cellulitis. However, orbital cellulitis is more dangerous.

Preseptal cellulitis usually is caused by spread of an infection of the face or eyelid, an infected insect or animal bite, conjunctivitis, a hordeolum (stye), or sinusitis.


Tissues around the eye become swollen, warm, tender, and usually red. A fever may develop. Sometimes the eyelid is so swollen that it cannot be easily opened. However, once the eyelids are opened, the vision and eye movements are not impaired, and the eyeball is not bulging.


  • Doctor's evaluation

  • Computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging

Doctors can often diagnose preseptal cellulitis by the person’s symptoms, but sometimes a potentially more serious infection, orbital cellulitis, may also be a possible diagnosis. If so, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is done.


  • Antibiotics

Treatment consists of antibiotics taken by mouth (for example, amoxicillin with clavulanate). If people have a severe infection or cannot take pills, hospitalization is recommended and antibiotics are given by vein. People should be monitored closely by an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye disorders).

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