Anatomy of the Eye
Although it is small in size, the eye arguably provides us with the most important of the five senses - vision. This section gives short overview of the anatomy of the eye and how the eye works.
Vision occurs when light enters the eye through the pupil. With help from other important structures in the eye, like the iris and cornea, the appropriate amount of light is directed towards the lens.
Just like a lens in a camera sends a message to produce a film, the lens in the eye ‘refracts’ (bends) incoming light onto the retina. The retina is made up by millions of specialised cells known as rods and cones. These work together to transform the image into electrical energy and this is sent to the optic disk on the retina and transferred via electrical impulses along the optic nerve to be processed by the brain.
Some definitions and explanations of parts of the eye and how they function are below.
- Iris regulates the amount of light that enters the eye. It forms the coloured, visible part of the eye in front of the lens. Light enters through a central opening called the pupil.
- Pupil is the circular opening in the centre of the iris through which light passes into the lens of the eye. The iris controls widening and narrowing (dilation and constriction) of the pupil.
- Cornea is the transparent circular part of the front of the eyeball. It refracts the light entering the eye onto the lens, which then focuses it onto the retina. The cornea contains no blood vessels and is extremely sensitive to pain.
- Lens is a transparent structure situated behind the pupil of the eye and it is enclosed in a thin transparent capsule. It helps to refract incoming light and focus it onto the retina. A cataract is when the lens becomes cloudy, and a cataract operation involves the replacement of the cloudy lens with a man made plastic lens.
- Choroid is the middle layer of the eye between the retina and the sclera. It also contains a pigment that absorbs excess light so preventing blurring of vision.
- Ciliary body is the part of the eye that connects the choroid to the iris.
- Retina is a light sensitive layer that lines the interior of the eye. It is composed of light sensitive cells known as rods and cones. The human eye contains about 125 million rods, which are necessary for seeing in dim light. Cones on the other hand function best in bright light - there are between 6 and 7 million in the eye - they are essential for receiving a sharp accurate image; cones can also distinguish colours. The retina works much in the same way as film in a camera.
- Macula is a yellow spot on the retina at the back of the eye which surrounds the fovea. This is the area with the greatest concentration of cone cells, and when the eye is directed at an object, the part of the image that is focused on the fovea is the image most accurately registered by the brain.
- Fovea forms a small indentation at the centre of the macula and is described as the area with the greatest concentration of cone cells.
- Optic disk is the visible (when the eye is examined) portion of the optic nerve also found on the retina of the eye. The optic disk identifies the start of the optic nerve where messages from cone and rod cells leave the eye via nerve fibres to the optic centre of the brain. This area is also known as the ‘blind spot’.
- Optic nerve leaves the eye at the optic disk, and transfers all the visual information to the brain.
- Sclera is the white part of the eye, a tough covering with which the cornea forms the external protective coat of the eye.
- Rod cells are one of the two types of light-sensitive cells in the retina of the eye. There are about 125 million rods, which are necessary for seeing in dim light.