man's eye

The orbital bones form the “walls” of the eye socket that protect the eye and vision. Despite being the most rigid part of the eye anatomy, the orbit can be affected by disorders that lead to significant complications and pain.

One medical condition that can affect the orbit is a fracture. An orbital fracture occurs when an orbital bone or the rim of the eye socket breaks, most commonly from blunt force trauma.

There are two major types of orbital fractures:

  • Orbital rim fracture, where the outer edges of the eye socket are damaged. The rim is a strong, rigid structure, and requires significant force to break.
  • Blowout fracture, where the thin orbital floor is damaged. These types of fractures can entrap muscles and limit movement of the eye, or lead to a sunken appearance.

Orbital fractures do not usually cause permanent vision loss unless the optic nerve is impacted. Typical symptoms of a fracture include blurred vision, double vision, bruising, and limited movement of the impacted eye. These injuries may require surgery under general anesthesia to fix.

Other causes of orbital disorders may be gradual and insidious. One such example is an orbital tumor. Tumors can originate within the eye socket or near the orbital bones, such as the eyelid, the area surrounding the nasal cavity, the sinus, or the intracranial (brain) compartment. Some tumors are benign, while others are malignant and require urgent medical intervention.

Tumors that affect the orbit include cysts, vascular lesions, lymphomas, neurogenic tumors, and secondary tumors (tumors spreading from other parts of the body). Symptoms include pain, bulging of the eye, double vision, swollen or droopy eyelids, and vision loss. Depending on the exact nature of the tumor, orbital tumors may be treated using a variety of techniques, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Finally, orbital inflammation is another common disorder of the orbit. Orbital inflammation may cause swelling of the area in and around the orbit. This may be due to autoimmune disorders such as lupus or Graves disease, also known as thyroid eye disease. Inflammatory diseases can cause pain, bulging of the eyes, and double vision. Often, these cases need to be treated with systemic medications: steroid treatment or drug infusions, depending on the cause.

Whether it be a fracture, growth, or inflammation, the orbital disease can cause significant discomfort. It can impact how you feel, the way you look, and your ability to function in daily life. Thankfully, there are treatments available, and clinics, such as New York Eye and Face Oculoplastic Surgery, which specializes in these cases, prioritize your comfort and well-being.

Written by Zoë Benaissa

Reviewed by Anaïs Carniciu, MD

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