Age-related posterior ciliary muscle restriction – A link between trabecular meshwork and optic nerve head pathophysiology

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The ciliary muscle plays a major role in controlling both accommodation and outflow facility in primates. The ciliary muscle and the choroid functionally form an elastic network that extends from the trabecular meshwork all the way to the back of the eye and ultimately attaches to the elastic fiber ring that surrounds the optic nerve and to the lamina cribrosa through which the nerve passes. The ciliary muscle governs the accommodative movement of the elastic network.

With age ciliary muscle mobility is restricted by progressively inelastic posterior attachments and the posterior restriction makes the contraction progressively isometric; placing increased tension on the optic nerve region. In addition, outflow facility also declines with age and limbal corneoscleral contour bows inward. Age-related loss in muscle movement and altered limbal corneoscleral contour could both compromise the basal function of the trabecular meshwork. Further, recent studies in non-human primates show that the central vitreous moves posteriorly all the way back to the optic nerve region, suggesting a fluid current and a pressure gradient toward the optic nerve. Thus, there may be pressure and tension spikes on the optic nerve region during accommodation and these pressure and tension spikes may increase with age. This constellation of events could be relevant to glaucomatous optic neuropathy.

In summary, our hypothesis is that glaucoma and presbyopia may be literally linked to each other, via the choroid, and that damage to the optic nerve may be inflicted by accommodative intraocular pressure and choroidal tension “spikes”, which may increase with age.

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