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Recommended video: Eyelids and tunica conjunctiva [21:20]
Sagittal section of the orbital cavity and eyeball.

The conjunctiva is a transparent mucous membrane that lines both the inner surface of the eyelids and the anterior surface of the eyeball (except the cornea). It allows the eyelid to move smoothly and freely over the eye, keeping it moist and protecting it from contact injury.

The eyelid and eyeball parts of the conjunctiva form a single continuous lining. The part of the conjunctival membrane lining the eyelid is called the palpebral conjunctiva, while the membrane lining the anterior eye is termed the bulbar conjunctiva. The point at which the palpebral conjunctiva changes to become bulbar, a deep fold, or recess, is formed called the conjunctival fornix. The space between the palpebral and bulbar conjunctiva is called the conjunctival sac.

The epithelium of the conjunctiva is non-keratinized and varies according to the location, ranging from stratified squamous to stratified columnar epithelium. Goblet cells, melanocytes, lymphocytes and Langerhans cells are also present in the conjunctival epithelium.  

Terminology English: Conjunctiva
Latin: Tunica conjunctiva
Additional terms English: Bulbar conjunctiva
Latin: Tunica conjunctiva bulbi oculi

English: Palpebral conjunctiva
Latin: Tunica conjunctiva palpebrae

English: Superior conjunctival fornix
Latin: Fornix superior conjunctivae

English: Inferior conjunctival fornix
Latin: Fornix inferior conjunctivae

English: Conjunctival sac
Latin: Saccus conjunctivalis
Definition Transparent mucous membrane lining the eyelid and eyeball
Function Permits smooth free movement of the eyelid over the eyeball
Keeps the eyeball moist
Protects the eyeball from contact injury
Contains blood vessels

Learn more about the anatomy of the eye with this study unit:

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