Uveoscleral outflow--a review

Exp Eye Res. 2009 Apr;88(4):760-8. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.12.012. Epub 2009 Jan 3.


The uveoscleral outflow route was described more than 40 years ago. Part of aqueous leaves the eye through the iris root. The ciliary muscle, and there are large species differences in the fraction of aqueous outflow that leaves the eye through this route. In non-human primates 40-50% of aqueous leaves the eye by the uveoscleral route. In human eyes most data has been collected by indirect calculations, with results suggesting a similar fraction, at least in eyes from younger individuals. An age-dependent reduction in uveoscleral flow in human eyes may explain the initial difference seen between non-human primate and human eyes. Unlike trabecular outflow, intraocular pressures within the normal range have little effect on uveoscleral outflow. This may be explained by the fact that changes in intraocular pressure have little effect on the pressure gradient for flow through the ciliary muscle, which is likely to be the rate-limiting step in uveoscleral outflow. The state of the ciliary muscle is important and contraction reduces while relaxation increases uveoscleral flow. Similar effects are achieved with cholinergic agonists and antagonists. Epinephrine increases uveoscleral flow, most likely through stimulating beta(2)-adrenergic receptors. Prostaglandin F(2alpha) and prostaglandin F(2alpha)-analogues effectively reduce intraocular pressure by increasing uveoscleral flow. This is mediated by structural changes in the extracellular matrix of the ciliary muscle, and is likely to contribute to a valuable excess route for aqueous and proteins during intraocular inflammation. Whether uveoscleral flow plays a significant role in any other eye disease is not clear. Thus, 40 years later we are able to successfully increase aqueous flow through the uveoscleral route, a valuable contribution to glaucoma treatment, but we still have only a limited understanding on its physiological role.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agents / pharmacology
  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Aqueous Humor / physiology*
  • Cholinergic Agents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Prostaglandins / pharmacology
  • Sclera / drug effects
  • Sclera / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Uvea / drug effects
  • Uvea / physiology*


  • Adrenergic Agents
  • Cholinergic Agents
  • Prostaglandins