Ophthalmic artery

Medically reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on January 21, 2015Published on January 21, 2015

The ophthalmic artery branches off from a major group of blood vessels in the head and neck known as the internal carotid arteries.

The ophthalmic artery is also composed of a number of smaller arterial branches. Its point of origin is usually right above the sinus. In some cases, the ophthalmic artery branches off the internal carotid artery right below the sinus.

The artery’s path runs through the optic canal, alongside the optic nerve, and towards the middle section of the eye. The first artery branch is the central retinal artery, which passes through the optic nerve and provides blood flow to the inner retinal layers, part of the light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the back of the eye. The lacrimal branch supplies the eyelids and conjunctiva, a membrane that covers the eyelids and white part of the eyeball.

The ophthalmic artery also produces the vessels that direct blood flow to some of the eye muscles. Two arterial extensions comprise the end of the ophthalmic artery and provide blood flow to the forehead and nose.

The ophthalmic artery is composed of 14 major extensions. Obstruction of the ophthalmic artery can lead to a medical condition known as ocular ischemic syndrome, in which a patient suffers some degree of vision loss. Coronary artery disease can facilitate its occurrence.

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