The ophthalmic artery stems 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 artery 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. Its path runs through the optic canal, alongside the optic nerve, and towards the middle bone 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. The lacrimal branch supplies the parts of the eye known as the eyelids and conjunctiva. The ophthalmic artery also produces the vessels that direct blood flow to some of the eye muscles. Two artery 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. Heart disease can facilitate its occurrence.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Ophthalmic artery