Nasociliary nerve

The nasociliary nerve is a branch of the ophthalmic nerve, itself a branch of the trigeminal nerve (CN V). It is intermediate in size between the other two branches of the ophthalmic nerve, the frontal nerve and lacrimal nerve.

Nasociliary nerve
Nerves of the orbit, and the ciliary ganglion. Side view. (Nasociliary is at center.)
Nerves of septum of nose. Right side. (Nasociliary is rightmost yellow line.)
FromOphthalmic nerve
Toposterior ethmoidal nerve, anterior ethmoidal nerve, long ciliary nerves, infratrochlear nerve, communicating branch to ciliary ganglion
Latinnervus nasociliaris
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy


The nasociliary nerve enters the orbit between the two heads of the lateral rectus muscle and between the superior and inferior rami of the oculomotor nerve. It passes across the optic nerve (CN II) and runs obliquely beneath the superior rectus muscle and superior oblique muscle to the medial wall of the orbital cavity. It passes through the anterior ethmoidal opening as the anterior ethmoidal nerve and enters the cranial cavity just below the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone. It supplies branches to the mucous membrane of the nasal cavity and finally emerges between the inferior border of the nasal bone and the side nasal cartilages as the external nasal branch.



The branches of the nasociliary nerve provide sensory innervation to structures surrounding the eye such as the cornea, eyelids, conjunctiva, ethmoid air cells and mucosa of the nasal cavity.

Clinical significanceEdit


Since both the short and long ciliary nerves carry the afferent limb of the corneal reflex, one can test the integrity of the nasociliary nerve (and, ultimately, the trigeminal nerve) by examining this reflex in the patient. Normally both eyes should blink when either cornea (not the conjunctiva, which is supplied by the adjacent cutaneous nerves) is irritated. If neither eye blinks, then either the ipsilateral nasociliary nerve is damaged, or the facial nerve (CN VII, which carries the efferent limb of this reflex) is bilaterally damaged. If only the contralateral eye blinks, then the ipsilateral facial nerve is damaged. If only the ipsilateral eye blinks, then the contralateral facial nerve is damaged.

Additional imagesEdit


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 888 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

External linksEdit