Introduction to Orbit Bones

The orbit bones, also known as the eye socket or eye orbit, are a critical component of the human skull. These bony structures serve several essential functions, providing protection, support, and housing for the delicate structures of the eye. In this article, we will delve into the anatomy, functions, and clinical relevance of the orbit bones. First, let’s discuss the Anatomy of the Orbit Bones.

eyeball dissection

In the next section, we will discuss the Anatomy of the Orbit Bones.

Anatomy of the Orbit Bones

The anatomy refers to the structures of the bony cavity that houses the eye and its associated structures. The orbit bones are a complex arrangement of several cranial and facial bones. Together, they create a protective socket for the eye. Let’s understand the components and various types of bones in the orbit.

Components of the Orbit

The orbit, also known as the eye socket, is a vital part of the human skull. It consists of several key components that protect and support the eye. These components include bones, muscles, nerves, and fatty tissues. Together, they create a protective cavity for the eye. The components are:

  1. The base of the Orbit:
    • The base of the orbit is the anterior (front) opening of the eye socket.
    • It is an elliptical opening through which the eye and its associated structures extend forward.
    • The base is formed by the frontal bone (superiorly), the maxilla (inferiorly), and the zygomatic bone (laterally).
  2. The apex of the Orbit:
    • The apex of the orbit is the posterior (back) part of the eye socket.
    • It is narrower than the base and extends backward into the cranial cavity.
    • The apex is formed by the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone (superiorly) and the sphenoid bone (posteriorly).
  3. Roof of the Orbit:
    • The roof of the orbit is the superior aspect of the eye socket.
    • It is formed mainly by the frontal bone, with contributions from the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone.
  4. Floor of the Orbit:
    • The floor of the orbit is the inferior aspect of the eye socket.
    • It is formed primarily by the maxilla, with a small contribution from the palatine bone.
  5. Medial Wall of the Orbit:
    • The medial wall of the orbit is the inner aspect of the eye socket, closer to the nose.
    • It is formed by the ethmoid bone (posteriorly), the lacrimal bone (anteriorly), and the frontal process of the maxilla.
  6. Lateral Wall of the Orbit:
    • The lateral wall of the orbit is the outer aspect of the eye socket.
    • It is mainly formed by the zygomatic bone and the greater wing of the sphenoid bone.
  7. Anterior Rim of the Orbit (Orbital Margin):
    • The anterior rim of the orbit, also called the orbital margin, is the front edge of the eye socket.
    • It is formed by the frontal bone (supraorbital rim) and the maxilla (infraorbital rim).
  8. Posterior Rim of the Orbit:
    • The posterior rim of the orbit is the back edge of the eye socket, near the apex.
    • It is formed by the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone and the body of the sphenoid bone.
orbit bones

Types of Orbit Bones

Here are the seven bones that contribute to the human orbit, along with some details about each:

  1. Frontal Bone:
    • The frontal bone forms the superior (upper) part of the orbit.
    • It includes the frontal sinus, which is an air-filled cavity within the frontal bone.
  2. Ethmoid Bone:
    • The ethmoid bone contributes to the medial (inner) wall of the orbit.
    • It contains the ethmoidal air cells and the cribriform plate, which separates the cranial cavity from the nasal cavity.
    • The ethmoid bone also forms part of the nasal septum.
  3. Sphenoid Bone:
    • The sphenoid bone is a crucial bone in the formation of the posterior (back) part of the orbit.
    • It includes the lesser wing of the sphenoid, which forms part of the roof of the orbit.
    • The greater wing of the sphenoid contributes to the lateral (side) wall of the orbit.
  4. Maxilla:
    • The maxilla forms the lower part of the orbit.
    • It houses the infraorbital foramen, through which the infraorbital nerve and blood vessels pass.
  5. Zygomatic Bone:
    • The zygomatic bone, also known as the cheekbone, forms the lateral (side) wall of the orbit.
    • It articulates with the frontal, sphenoid, and temporal bones.
  6. Palatine Bone:
    • The palatine bone contributes to the posterior part of the orbit.
    • It is primarily located in the back of the nasal cavity and the roof of the mouth (palate).
  7. Lacrimal Bone:
    • The lacrimal bone is one of the smallest bones in the orbit.
    • It forms part of the medial (inner) wall of the orbit and houses the lacrimal gland, which produces tears.

Location and Structure

The orbit is located at the front of the skull and houses the eye. It is associated with muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Its shape is roughly almond-shaped, oriented horizontally. This configuration provides a snug and protective environment for the eye.

The bones of the orbit have openings, called foramina. They allow the passage of essential structures like the optic nerve and blood vessels. These openings ensure that the eye functions optimally.

Moreover, the orbit bones serve as attachment points for the extraocular muscles, which control eye movement. The coordinated action of these muscles allows us to track objects and maintain proper eye alignment.

In the upcoming part. we will understand the landmarks and openings of the orbit bones.

landmarks and openings

Landmarks and Openings

Landmarks and openings refer to specific features and cavities. They are important for various functions, including housing and protecting the eye and its associated structures. Here are some key landmarks and openings in the orbit bones:

  1. Optic Foramen (Canal):
    • Location: The optic foramen, also known as the optic canal, is located within the sphenoid bone of the skull.
    • Description: This canal is a passageway for the optic nerve (cranial nerve II) and the ophthalmic artery. It connects the middle cranial fossa with the orbit (eye socket).
    • Function: The optic foramen allows the optic nerve to transmit visual information from the eye to the brain. While also providing a pathway for blood supply to the structures in the orbit.
  2. Lacrimal Fossa:
    • Location: The lacrimal fossa is located in the frontal bone of the skull, near the inner corner of each eye.
    • Description: It is a shallow depression in the bone that houses the lacrimal gland. The lacrimal gland produces tears (lacrimal fluid), which are essential for eye lubrication and maintaining eye health.
    • Function: The lacrimal gland secretes tears into the conjunctival sac. Then the tears spread across the eye’s surface when you blink, keeping the eye moist and clean.
  3. Lacrimal Groove:
    • Location: The lacrimal groove is found on the frontal bone, just above the lacrimal fossa.
    • Description: It is a bony groove that helps guide the tears produced by the lacrimal gland towards the lacrimal puncta. Lacrimal puncta are small openings in the inner corners of the upper and lower eyelids.
    • Function: The lacrimal groove assists in the drainage of tears from the eye into the nasolacrimal duct. It eventually leads to tears in the nasal cavity.
  4. Anterior and Posterior Ethmoidal Foramina:
    • Location: These foramina are located in the ethmoid bone, which is part of the cranial and facial skeleton.
    • Description: The anterior and posterior ethmoidal foramina are openings through which the anterior and posterior ethmoidal nerves and vessels pass. These structures play a role in the sensory and vascular supply of the nasal cavity and surrounding regions.
    • Function: They allow the passage of nerves and blood vessels. Overall they contribute to the innervation and vascularization of the nasal mucosa and nearby structures.
  5. Trochlea:
    • Location: The trochlea is a cartilaginous structure located within the superior orbital rim.
    • Description: It serves as a pulley-like structure over which the superior oblique muscle of the eye passes. This arrangement allows the eye to move in different directions and helps control eye movements.
    • Function: The trochlea facilitates smooth and coordinated eye movements, particularly when looking downward and inward.
  6. Superior and Inferior Orbital Fissures:
    • Location: These fissures are located in the sphenoid bone, forming openings between the greater and lesser wings of the bone.
    • Description: The superior and inferior orbital fissures are pathways. They transmit various nerves and blood vessels to and from the orbit (eye socket).
    • Function: They allow the passage of cranial nerves (such as the oculomotor, trochlear, and abducens nerves) and blood vessels. Overall, contributes to the sensory and motor functions of the eye and surrounding structures.
landmarks and openings from a different view

In the next section, we shall discuss the content of the orbit. It includes eyeballs, orbital fascia, and vice versa.

contents of the orbit

Content of the Orbit

  • Eyeballs: The eyeballs are the round, white parts of your eyes. They help you see things by collecting light and sending signals to your brain.
  • Orbital Fascia: Orbital fascia is like a protective sheet around the eyeballs. It keeps everything in place and helps maintain the shape of the eye socket.
  • Orbital Fat: Orbital fat is the soft cushioning around your eyes. It acts like a cushion, protecting your eyes from bumps and shocks.
  • Extraocular Muscles: These are the special muscles that move your eyes. They work together to let you look in different directions, up, down, left, and right.
  • Neurovasculature: This refers to the blood vessels and nerves that supply your eyes and the surrounding area. They bring nutrients and signals to keep your eyes healthy and working.
  • Lacrimal Apparatus: The lacrimal apparatus includes your tear glands and ducts. It’s responsible for making tears that keep your eyes moist and clean.

In the upcoming section, we will discuss the functions of the orbit bones.

Functions of the Orbit Bones

The orbit bones are a crucial part of the human skull. They play several important roles in protecting our eyes, helping us see, and allowing our eye muscles to work effectively. Now, we will discuss each of the functions in detail.

The components of the eye

Protection of the Eye

The orbit (eye socket) serves as a natural protective barrier for the eye. There are several bones (discussed above), and together these bones form a bony cavity that cradles the eye. This protective enclosure plays a crucial role in safeguarding the eye from various potential sources of damage:

  • Physical Impact: The bony structure of the orbit absorbs and distributes forces in the event of an impact to the face. This function is vital in preventing direct trauma to the eye, reducing the risk of injury.
  • Foreign Objects: It acts as a barrier against foreign objects. The objects that might otherwise enter the eye, such as dust, debris, or small insects.
  • Infections: By enclosing the eye, the orbit also helps protect it from potential sources of infection.

Role in Vision

The orbit bones are intricately involved in the process of vision:

  • Positioning of the Eye: The bones of the orbit help maintain the proper positioning of the eye within the skull. This alignment is essential for binocular vision, which allows for depth perception and a wider field of view.
  • Support for Eye Structures: These bones provide a structural foundation for the eye’s various components. Some of them are sclera (the white of the eye), cornea, lens, iris, and retina. They ensure that these elements are properly situated for optimal visual function.
  • Conduction of Nerves and Blood Vessels: The orbit also contains essential structures like nerves (e.g., optic nerve) and blood vessels (e.g., ophthalmic artery and vein). They’re crucial for transmitting visual information and providing nutrients to the eye.

Attachment Points for Muscles

The orbit bones serve as anchor points for several muscles responsible for the movement of the eye:

  • Extraocular Muscles: Six muscles control the movement of each eye, allowing for precise and coordinated motions. These muscles include the superior rectus, inferior rectus, medial rectus, lateral rectus, superior oblique, and inferior oblique muscles. They attach to the walls and base of the orbit. Their precise attachment points enable the eye to move in various directions. These include up and down, side to side, and in a rotational manner.
  • Control of Gaze: The attachment points of these muscles are strategically positioned to control gaze. While maintaining the alignment of both eyes. This coordination is essential for binocular vision. It enhances depth perception and the ability to focus on objects at different distances.


In summary, the orbit bones are integral components of the skull. They protect and support the eye while facilitating vision and eye movement. These bones, formed by various cranial and facial structures, create a protective cavity housing the eye. Landmarks and openings within the orbit allow for the passage of nerves and blood vessels, essential for eye health.

The orbit’s contents include the eyeballs, orbital fascia, orbital fat, extraocular muscles, neuro vasculature, and the lacrimal apparatus. They collectively ensure proper eye function.

In clinical practice, understanding the orbit’s anatomy is vital for diagnosing and treating conditions. Like fractures, tumors, infections, optic nerve disorders, and eye surgeries. Overall, the orbit bones play a critical role in preserving eye health and function.

Further Reading

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  1. OpenStax College, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Anatomist90, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  3. Dr. Johannes Sobotta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Dr. Johannes Sobotta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Hariadhi, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Categories: Anatomy


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