In the orbit of the eye, the lateral rectus muscle helps move the pupil away from the body's midline. The muscle inserts into the temporal side of the eyeball and stretches to its insertion point at the annulus of Zinn, a common tendinous ring circling the optic nerve. This occurs at the apex of the orbit. However, before reaching the ring, the muscle must first thread through the pulley-like trochlea of the superior oblique. The abducens nerve innervates the lateral rectus muscle, providing it a neural pathway to the brain. The abducens is also known as the sixth cranial nerve. This nerve innervates some of the other muscles in the eye's orbit. Should the abducens nerve cease to function properly, double vision could develop, as the medial rectus would begin to work unopposed. Plus, if the lateral rectus muscle itself sustains damage, a person's eyesight could suffer as a result. However, this is also true if any eye muscles cease to function properly.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Lateral rectus