eyes breathe

Can Your Eyes Breathe?

By Anupum Pant

Wait! Who says eyes breathe

The transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil is called Cornea. Cornea contributes a lot to the focusing power of the eye. That means, light has to pass through it without obstruction. To do that it has to remain completely clear. Consequently, to remain transparent, it can’t have any impurities nor can it have any blood vessels – that would have made it less transparent.

Every organ needs oxygen to run the cell processes with the energy that comes by oxidizing nutrients contained in the cells. To receive oxygen, they need to have access to blood. Since Cornea does not have any blood vessels, it cannot receive oxygen from blood. So what does it do to stay alive?

It absorbs oxygen directly from the air through diffusion. Oxygen gets dissolved in the tears and then diffuses across the cornea. However, the amount of diffused oxygen is so less that it is just enough for only the cornea cells. This can’t be supplied to other parts of the body. And this is exactly the reason you would get yourself killed if you plug your nose and your mouth, expecting your eye would keep you alive by breathing in oxygen.

In a sense, you could call it breathing. But it isn’t exactly ‘breathing’. Breathing, according to the medical definition means:

The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.

Clearly, as the oxygen received by cornea doesn’t come from the mouth or nose and never goes through the lungs, it cannot be called breathing.

Other ways?

Let us consider the second possibility. At the inner corner of the eye there is a very thin tube that connects to the nose. Through this tube (A.K.A the Punctum), your eye is able to drain off excess tears. Punctum is the reason, you have to blow your nose when you cry. Punctum is also the tube that enables this guy to squirt milk out of his eyes (By sucking it through his nose first) [Video РPretty disgusting to watch]

Also, you can blow an extremely tiny volume air out of these corner eye holes. But, you can’t breathe in through them.


Although the cornea of your eye has the ability to absorb oxygen directly from the air, you cannot technically call it breathing.


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10 thoughts on “Can Your Eyes Breathe?”

  1. So is it bad to cover your eyes with Saran wraps at night to prevent dry eyes from Nocturnal lagophthalmos ? Since the cornea couldn’t get oxygen?

  2. This article has caused such trouble. I have noticed that a small amount of air can come out of the corners of my eyes ever since I was a little child. After showing this article to my wife, it was to no avail. My wife tells me she does not want to hear it, and that even so, it does not counter her early suspicion that she had just married the paranormal when she married me…Rats!!!!!!!!!!!!… How depressing..and all this time I thought she did not know. Then again, we have been married for almost fifty years, and often read each other’s minds.. which means it only gets worse as time goes by.
    Now for the nitty gritty. I heard on a video add that the eyes use about 80% of the oxygen we absorb when breathing. Is that true? And if so: I have also read that people loose at least 10% or more of their ability to absorb oxygen in their breath per decade for various reasons. (ie: Sitting crouched on their potato butts all day while on the web, and growing butt spuds while eating potato chips..actually a form of cannibalism,,yuuk!!!) Now just perhaps, it is not the lack of Lutein that causes macular blindness, but (Pun) the lack of Oxygen that is the problem? After all, about 80% of the population only uses 20% of their breathing capacity on a good day, while hoping to get rid of 75% of metabolic byproducts which requires full use of the lungs. If so, Lutein probably does not work well when oxygen blood levels drop with age?.. but (pun again) it may be great for cancer. Then again, ask your doctor about how to breath to avoid disease, and maybe find out how much they do not know???

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