Preseptal Cellulitis: Overview, Causes, and Treatments

Preseptal cellulitis, also known as periorbital cellulitis, is an infection that usually affects children but can also affect adults in certain circumstances. This article will give you an in-depth look at the causes, symptoms, effects, and treatment options for preseptal cellulitis.

What is Preseptal Cellulitis?

Preseptal cellulitis is a specific manifestation of cellulitis, which is an infection of the skin. Preseptal cellulitis is when the skin anterior to the orbital septum becomes infected. The orbital septum includes the soft tissues around the eyelid.

This should not be confused with orbital cellulitis which is an emergency condition where the soft tissues around the eye socket are infected. You can think of it as the difference between an infection in front of your eye and an infection behind your eye. Unlike orbital cellulitis (the back of the eye,) preseptal cellulitis (the front of the eye) is usually considered a mild disease that is easy-to-treat.

Both diseases more commonly develop in children, but it’s possible for adults to get them both as well.

Causes of Preseptal Cellulitis

Preseptal cellulitis is a condition that’s usually caused by some sort of break in the skin where bacteria enters the eyelid. The bacteria that most commonly infect eye tissue include haemophilus influenzae, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. There are generally four ways these bacteria will infect the eyelid and surrounding soft tissue.

Preseptal cellulitis is a condition that’s usually caused by some sort of break in the skin where bacteria enters the eyelid

Sinusitis - Sinusitis is a condition where either a radical change in air temperature or a strong reaction to allergies lead to inflammation of the sinus cavities. This quick inflammation can lead to a greater susceptibility to infection. Once when you have a sinus infection, it doesn’t take much for the infection to move from your sinuses to your eyelid.

Upper respiratory tract infections - These infections are similar to sinusitis as they’re common viral infections that affect the nose, throat, and airways of the patient. These infections can easily move from the nose and throat into the sinuses and then into the eyes.

Eyelid trauma - Any sort of damage to your eyelid can lead to an enhanced risk of infection. Even a simple scratch can act as a break in your body’s protective skin layer. If your eyelid is damaged somehow, make sure to commit yourself proper hygiene practices as the eyelid heals. If the damage is moderate to severe, it may be worth your time to contact a medical doctor and ask if there are any special preventative steps you should take in order to avoid possible eye infections.

Infections in the bloodstream - Once an infection enters the bloodstream, it can travel virtually anywhere in the body. This is why you take a holistic approach to self-care and don’t just care about preventing infections when symptoms start appearing.

Once an infection enters the bloodstream, it can travel virtually anywhere in the body


There are a variety of symptoms associated with preseptal cellulitis.

Here are some of the symptoms patients with preseptal cellulitis might experience:

  • Swelling
  • Redness in the eye
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Mild discomfort or pain
  • Blurred or impaired vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Discoloration of the eyelid
  • Reduced vision (caused by the swelling of the eyelid)
  • Warmth around the eye region
  • Fever
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It’s important that someone can experience a variety of these symptoms, and no, one symptom is an obvious sign of preseptal cellulitis. If you’re experiencing several of the aforementioned symptoms it’s likely that you need medical help, even if it’s not preseptal cellulitis. Just to be safe, contact your medical doctor and get an official diagnosis one way or the other.

How Serious is Preseptal Cellulitis?

Preseptal cellulitis is not as serious as orbital cellulitis. Orbital cellulitis usually requires emergency treatment, whereas preseptal cellulitis requires treatment but the need for medical care isn’t as urgent.

Along with an official diagnosis, your doctor can tell you how advanced your particular condition is and what is the best course for treatment, considering your current state. Usually, preseptal cellulitis goes away with 2-3 days with of treatment.

Treatments For Preseptal Cellulitis

Preseptal cellulitis is usually treated according to how advanced the disease is in the patient. The more aggressive cases will be treated more aggressively and the less aggressive cases will not. That’s because preseptal cellulitis isn’t as medically urgent as other forms of ocular cellulitis.

The first step to treating preseptal cellulitis is getting a proper medical diagnosis. If you start experiencing the symptoms of preseptal cellulitis, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor so you can know exactly what you’re dealing with.

The second step is usually the last step for most people. Doctors usually prescribe some sort of oral antibiotic to help fight the infection and treat the condition. You will start seeing results in 2-3 days but it’s important to continue taking your antibiotics as directed. For safety purposes, a doctor may suggest that children younger than 4 years of age receive their antibiotics via an IV bag in the hospital or a daily shot administered by a medical professional.

Doctors usually prescribe some sort of oral antibiotic to help fight the infection and treat the condition

In certain, extreme cases, doctors may have to move on to the third step, surgery. Surgery can be used to relieve built-up pressure in and around the eye allowing it a better opportunity to heal itself. Surgery for preseptal cellulitis is usually a last resort treatment effort for the most advanced stages of the disease. Most patients will not have to worry about surgery however.


Preseptal cellulitis is a mild eye infection but that doesn’t mean you should leave it alone in hopes that it will cure itself. Hopefully, now you feel better prepared to handle and treat preseptal cellulitis should you ever develop it in your life.