Geriatrics 3 pp 326-351 | Cite as

Age-Related Changes in the Anterior Segment of the Eye

  • J. W. Rohen
  • E. Lütjen-Drecoll


In general, the tissues of the anterior segment of the eye undergo the same aging processes which take place in the organism as a whole. However, the special role of the eye as a device for optical function has led to the development of specialized mechanisms which, in some places, may also inhibit or even prevent common aging processes. This inhibition of age-related degeneration in certain constituents of the connective tissue may prevent early dysfunction in this important sensory organ. Such dysfunction may be more critical on the survival of the organism than comparable aging processes in the skin or bones; e.g., the maintenance of corneal transparency and a constant intraocular pressure are of fundamental biologic importance. The corneal transparency depends on a continuous process of dehydration and a certain degree of “nonaging” of the connective tissue found in the corneal stroma (cf. Sect. B. I). With respect to intraocular pressure maintenance, it appears that the age-related increase in outflow resistance is counteracted by a simultaneous decrease in aqueous formation. This may be the means by which the tissues of the ciliary body and the chamber angle maintain a fairly constant intraocular pressure during life. Similar interrelated processes may also develop at other sites of the eye (Fig. 1). Thus, aging in the eye cannot be considered an isolated, uniformly developing degenerative process. Rather, it is a complicated process of structural and biologic changes of interrelated functional systems whereby systems may compensate for changes occurring in a neighboring system and vice versa. We are far from a real pathologic or gerontologic understanding of such interrelations and functional mechanisms.


Ciliary Body Trabecular Meshwork Corneal Stroma Ciliary Muscle Ciliary Process 
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  • J. W. Rohen
  • E. Lütjen-Drecoll

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