Orbital cellulitis causes

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ogheneochuko Ajari, MB.BS, MS [2]; Tarek Nafee, M.D. [3]


Orbital cellulitis occurs most commonly from typical bacterial infections. In some cases, mycobacteria or mycosis may also be implicated. The most common underlying condition is ethmoid sinusitis, which has been reported in 90-98% of orbital cellulitis cases. The most commonly reported pathogens are Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus spp., and Haemophilus influenzae. With the rise of microbial resistance, methicillian-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) must be considered as a potential cause and correlated with geographic prevalence. Though some causes may be uncommon, orbital cellulitis is a medical emergency and all etiologies must be considered.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Orbital cellulitis occurs most commonly from bacterial infection. In some cases, mycobacterial or fungal infections are observed.[1][2][3][4] Difficulty arises in identifying a specific organism due to challenges in culturing the retroseptal orbital region.[7]

Cause by Pathogen

Common bacterial causes of orbital cellulitis include:[1][2][3]

In immunocompromised patients, additional causes may include:[2]

Cause by Etiology

Based on etiology, the most common underlying condition causing orbital cellulitis is ethmoid sinusitis, which occurs in 90-98% of cases.[1][5][6] Additional causes based on etiology include:[2][7]

Cause by Organ System

Cardiovascular No underlying causes
Chemical/Poisoning No underlying causes
Dental Dental infection, tooth abscess
Dermatologic No underlying causes
Drug Side Effect No underlying causes
Ear Nose Throat Ethmoid sinusitis, otitis media, sinusitis
Endocrine No underlying causes
Environmental No underlying causes
Gastroenterologic No underlying causes
Genetic No underlying causes
Hematologic No underlying causes
Iatrogenic Peribulbar anesthesia, surgical trauma
Infectious Disease Aeromonas hydrophila, anaerobes, arcanobacterium, aspergillosis, aspergillus, bacterial rhinosinusitis, bacteroides, beta-hemolytic streptococci, dacryocystitis, dental infection, eikenella corrodens, enterococcus, ethmoid sinusitis, haemophilus influenzae, haemophilus parainfluenzae, infected mucocele, klebsiella pneumoniae, moraxella catarrhalis, MRSA, MSSA, mucor, mucorales, mucormycosis, mycobacterium tuberculosis, neisseria gonorrhea, osteomyelitis of the orbital bones, otitis media, peptostreptococcus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, rothia mucilaginosa, sinusitis, staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus anginosus, streptococcus milleri, streptococcus pneumoniae, streptococcus pyogenes, streptococcus, tooth abscess, varicella
Musculoskeletal/Orthopedic No underlying causes
Neurologic No underlying causes
Nutritional/Metabolic No underlying causes
Obstetric/Gynecologic No underlying causes
Oncologic No underlying causes
Ophthalmologic Blepharoplasty, dacryocystitis, dacryocystorhinostomy, eyelid surgery, ophthalmic surgery, orbital decompression, orbital fracture, osteomyelitis of the orbital bones, radial keratotomy, retinal surgery, strabismus surgery
Overdose/Toxicity No underlying causes
Psychiatric No underlying causes
Pulmonary Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Renal/Electrolyte No underlying causes
Rheumatology/Immunology/Allergy No underlying causes
Sexual No underlying causes
Trauma Orbital fracture, trauma
Urologic No underlying causes
Miscellaneous Foreign body, phlebitis of the facial veins

Causes in Alphabetical Order


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Hasanee K, Sharma S (2004). "Ophthaproblem. Orbital cellulitis". Can Fam Physician. 50: 359, 365, 367. PMC 2214559. PMID 15318671.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Lam Choi VB, Yuen HK, Biswas J, Yanoff M (2011). "Update in pathological diagnosis of orbital infections and inflammations". Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 18 (4): 268–76. doi:10.4103/0974-9233.90127. PMC 3249811. PMID 22224014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Merck Manual Professional Version (2016)https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/orbital-diseases/preseptal-and-orbital-cellulitis
  4. 4.0 4.1 American Academy of Ophthalmology Eyewiki (2015)http://eyewiki.aao.org/Orbital_Cellulitis#Etiology
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nageswaran S, Woods CR, Benjamin DK, Givner LB, Shetty AK (2006). "Orbital cellulitis in children". Pediatr Infect Dis J. 25 (8): 695–9. doi:10.1097/01.inf.0000227820.36036.f1. PMID 16874168.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Chaudhry IA, Al-Rashed W, Arat YO (2012). "The hot orbit: orbital cellulitis". Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 19 (1): 34–42. doi:10.4103/0974-9233.92114. PMC 3277022. PMID 22346113.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Baring DE, Hilmi OJ (2011). "An evidence based review of periorbital cellulitis". Clin Otolaryngol. 36 (1): 57–64. doi:10.1111/j.1749-4486.2011.02258.x. PMID 21232022.

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