January 03, 2007

Anatomy of Human Eye


An eye is an organ of vision that detects light. Different kinds of light-sensitive organs are found in a variety of organisms. The simplest eyes do nothing but detect whether the surroundings are light or dark, while more complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colors. Many animals, including some mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, have two eyes whose fields of vision largely overlap, to allow better depth perception (binocular vision), as in humans; and others are placed so as to minimize the overlap, such as in rabbits and chameleons.

A guide to the many parts of the human eye and how they function.
The ability to see is dependent on the actions of several structures in and around the eyeball.

When you look at an object, light rays are reflected from the object to the cornea, which is where the miracle begins. The light rays are bent, refracted and focused by the cornea, lens, and vitreous. The lens' job is to make sure the rays come to a sharp focus on the retina. The resulting image on the retina is upside-down. Here at the retina, the light rays are converted to electrical impulses which are then transmitted through the optic nerve, to the brain, where the image is translated and perceived in an upright position!

Think of the eye as a camera. A camera needs a lens and a film to produce an image. In the same way, the eyeball needs a lens (cornea, crystalline lens, vitreous) to refract, or focus the light and a film (retina) on which to focus the rays. If any one or more of these components is not functioning correctly, the result is a poor picture. The retina represents the film in our camera. It captures the image and sends it to the brain to be developed. The macula is the highly sensitive area of the retina. The macula is responsible for our critical focusing vision. It is the part of the retina most used. We use our macula to read or to stare intently at an object
Adapted from St. Luke's Cataract & Laser Institute
Anatomy of the mammalian eye

Three layers
The structure of the mammalian eye can be divided into three main layers or tunics whose names reflect their basic functions: the fibrous tunic, the vascular tunic, and the nervous tunic .

The fibrous tunic, also known as the tunica fibrosa oculi, is the outer layer of the eyeball consisting of the cornea and sclera. The sclera gives the eye most of its white color. It consists of dense connective tissue filled with the protein collagen to both protect the inner components of the eye and maintain its shape.

The vascular tunic, also known as the tunica vasculosa oculi, is the middle vascularized layer which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid The choroid contains blood vessels that supply the retinal cells with necessary oxygen and remove the waste products of respiration. The choroid gives the inner eye a dark color, which prevents disruptive reflections within the eye.

The nervous tunic, also known as the tunica nervosa oculi, is the inner sensory which includes the retina. The retina contains the photosensitive rod and cone cells and associated neurons. To maximise vision and light absorption, the retina is a relatively smooth (but curved) layer. It does have two points at which it is different; the fovea and optic disc. The fovea is a dip in the retina directly opposite the lens, which is densely packed with cone cells. It is largely responsible for color vision in humans, and enables high acuity, such as is necessary in reading. The optic disc, sometimes referred to as the anatomical blind spot, is a point on the retina where the optic nerve pierces the retina to connect to the nerve cells on its inside. No photosensitive cells whatsoever exist at this point, it is thus "blind".

Anterior and posterior segments
The mammalian eye can also be divided into two main segments: the anterior segment and the posterior segment

Anterior segment
The anterior segment is the front third of the eye that includes the structures in front of the vitreous humour: the cornea, iris, ciliary body, and lens. Within the anterior segment are two fluid-filled spaces: the anterior chamber and the posterior chamber. The anterior chamber is the space between the posterior surface of the cornea (i.e. the corneal endothelium) and the iris, whereas the posterior chamber is between the iris and the front face of the vitreous.

The cornea and lens help to converge light rays to focus onto the retina. The lens, behind the iris, is a convex, springy disk which focuses light, through the second humour, onto the retina. It is attached to the ciliary body via a ring of suspensory ligaments known as the Zonule of Zinn. To clearly see an object far away, the circularly arranged ciliary muscle will pull on the lens, flattening it. When the ciliary muscle contracts, the lens will spring back into a thicker, more convex, form. Humans gradually lose this flexibility with age, resulting in the inability to focus on nearby objects, which is known as presbyopia. There are other refraction errors arising from the shape of the cornea and lens, and from the length of the eyeball. These include myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. The iris, between the lens and the first humour, is a pigmented ring of fibrovascular tissue and muscle fibres. Light must first pass though the centre of the iris, the pupil. The size of the pupil is actively adjusted by the circular and radial muscles to maintain a relatively constant level of light entering the eye. Too much light being let in could damage the retina; too little light makes sight difficult.

All of the individual components through which light travels within the eye before reaching the retina are transparent, minimising dimming of the light. Light enters the eye from an external medium such as air or water, passes through the cornea, and into the first of two humours, the aqueous humour. Most of the light refraction occurs at the cornea which has a fixed curvature. The first humour is a clear mass which connects the cornea with the lens of the eye, helps maintain the convex shape of the cornea (necessary to the convergence of light at the lens) and provides the corneal endothelium with nutrients.

Posterior segment

The posterior segment is the back two-thirds of the eye that includes the anterior hyaloid membrane and all structures behind it: the vitreous humor, retina, choroid, and optic nerve. On the other side of the lens is the second humour, the vitreous humour, which is bounded on all sides: by the lens, ciliary body, suspensory ligaments and by the retina. It lets light through without refraction, helps maintain the shape of the eye and suspends the delicate lens. In some animals, the retina contains a reflective layer (the tapetum lucidum) which increases the amount of light each photosensitive cell perceives, allowing the animal to see better under low light conditions
Adapted from WikiPedia