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Cavernous Sinuses - What Are They and How Can They Affect Your Eyes?

Cavernous sinuses When we think about vision we think about the eye, but this isnít the only element that plays a role in helping us to see. One element that we often donít think about that plays a huge role in our eyes ability to move are the cavernous sinuses.

What are the cavernous sinuses?
The cavernous sinus is located in the head a bit behind the eyes. It is comprised of many thin walled veins that form a cavity. You have two cavernous sinuses, one behind each eye. Several nerves, veins and arteries pass through them. The optic nerve, which sends visual signals to the brain passes right by the cavernous sinus.

Your cavernous sinuses can be prone to infection and if you get an infection somewhere else on the body nearby, it can easily spread. When they become infected it can be quite painful and uncomfortable.

Cavernous sinuses and animals
In animals the cavernous sinuses are much larger than they are in humans. This is probably due to the fact that these animals need a wide range of eye movement to survive. Likewise the cavernous sinuses play a more prominent and useful role in these animals. Think about it, a deer needs to be able to constantly be on the watch for predators. The unique shape of the cavernous sinuses in the animal kingdom allows for a wider range of vision. This allows animal like the deer to be able to see both forward and to the side and sometimes even behind all at the same time.

Fish also have large cavernous sinuses when compared to humans. This provides a larger vision spectrum as well as contributes to the fishís ability to balance in the water.

The purposes of the cavernous sinuses in humans
The cavernous sinuses might not be as versatile and large in humans as they are in animals, but they are still very useful. They help the eye to maintain its fluid and pressure balance. They also act as a shock absorber for the eye which can limit damage to vision when serious injury occurs. It is also believed that they contribute greatly to the movement of both eyes by allowing fluids to puddle and drain as needed for proper eye movement.

Cavernous sinus thrombosis
Cavernous sinus thrombosis or CST is a serious condition that can develop when the cavernous sinuses become infected. As mentioned earlier infection is common in this area since infections from other areas in the face can easily spread here. CST is a complication that can occur in late stages of infection that often leads to death or serious damage. Luckily improved medical care and the use of antimicrobial agents has caused the occurrence of CST to drop dramatically.

CST is a form of infection in the cavernous sinuses. It can be caused by any type of infection but most commonly is caused by a staph infection although it has also been seen in the form of other infections. Those with this condition usually complain of headaches, eye or orbital pain, vision changes and even confusion. Quick treatment is essential since CST rapidly progresses. The next time that you move your eyes from side to side or you see an animal watching you out of the corner of its eye, remember it isnít just the eye at work. The cavernous sinuses are playing a critical role in both protecting the eye and creating a broad field of vision. Without these little vein filled chambers our vision would be entirely different and our eyes would be much more likely to be damaged or injured. While our eyes may do the actual seeing, there are so many other parts involved in our daily vision.

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