Aqueous humor dynamics: a review

Open Ophthalmol J. 2010 Sep 3;4:52-9. doi: 10.2174/1874364101004010052.


Glaucoma is a family of optic neuropathies which cause irreversible but potentially preventable vision loss. Vision loss in most forms of glaucoma is related to elevated IOP with subsequent injury to the optic nerve. Secretion of aqueous humor and regulation of its outflow are physiologically important processes for maintaining IOP in the normal range. Thus, understanding the complex mechanisms that regulate aqueous humor circulation is essential for management of glaucoma. The two main structures related to aqueous humor dynamics are the ciliary body and the trabecular meshwork (TM). Three mechanisms are involved in aqueous humor formation: diffusion, ultrafiltration and active secretion. Active secretion is the major contributor to aqueous humor formation. The aqueous humor flow in humans follows a circadian rhythm, being higher in the morning than at night. The aqueous humor leaves the eye by passive flow via two pathways - the trabecular meshwork and the uveoscleral pathway. In humans, 75% of the resistance to aqueous humor outflow is localized within the TM with the juxtacanalicular portion of the TM being the main site of outflow resistance. Glycosaminoglycan deposition in the TM extracellular matrix (ECM) has been suggested to be responsible for increased outflow resistance at this specific site whereas others have suggested deposition of proteins, such as cochlin, obstruct the aqueous humor outflow through the TM. The uveoscleral outflow pathway is relatively independent of the intraocular pressure and the proportion of aqueous humor exiting the eye via the uveoscleral pathway decreases with age.

Keywords: Aqueous humor; glaucoma; intra-ocular pressure (IOP)..