Physiology and abnormalities of the pupil

Last updated: July 28, 2022

Summarytoggle arrow icon

The pupil is an opening in the center of the iris through which light enters the eye. Pupillary size can vary in response to light intensity and neurologic stimuli. Increasing brightness causes pupillary constriction (miosis) while increasing darkness causes pupillary dilation (mydriasis). Pupillary abnormalities can be caused by a variety of conditions.

Overviewtoggle arrow icon

Accommodation and convergencetoggle arrow icon

Pupillary responsetoggle arrow icon

Pupillary control [2]

Pupillary control is mediated by both parasympathetic and sympathetic innervation.



Short ciliary nerves make the pupillary muscle fibers short (leading to miosis), while long ciliary nerves make the pupillary muscle fibers long.

Pupillary light reflex

Afferent pupillary defecttoggle arrow icon

Anisocoriatoggle arrow icon

Extraocular causes of nonphysiological anisocoria
Pupillary constriction Pupillary dilation

Anisocoria is not associated with afferent pupillary defects.

Other pupillary defectstoggle arrow icon

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Spector RH, Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW. The Pupils. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory. 1990.
  2. Furlan JC, Sundaram AN. Sudden-onset anisocoria in a patient with upper respiratory tract infection.. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne. 2014; 186 (1): p.57-61.doi: 10.1503/cmaj.130581 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Pupillary Responses. Updated: January 1, 2018. Accessed: June 28, 2018.
  4. Adie Tonic Pupil. Updated: January 1, 2018. Accessed: June 28, 2018.

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