Human eye, in humans, specialized sense organ capable of receiving visual images, which are then carried to the brain.

Anatomy of the visual apparatus

Structures auxiliary to the eye

The orbit

The eye is protected from mechanical injury by being enclosed in a socket, or orbit, which is made up of portions of several of the bones of the skull to form a four-sided pyramid, the apex of which points back into the head. Thus, the floor of the orbit is made up of parts of the maxilla, zygomatic, and palatine bones, while the roof is made up of the orbital plate of the frontal bone and, behind this, by the lesser wing of the sphenoid. The optic foramen, the opening through which the optic nerve runs back into the brain and the large ophthalmic artery enters the orbit, is at the nasal side of the apex; the superior orbital fissure is a larger hole through which pass large veins and nerves. These nerves may carry nonvisual sensory messages—e.g., pain—or they may be motor nerves controlling the muscles of the eye. There are other fissures and canals transmitting nerves and blood vessels. The eyeball and its functional muscles are surrounded by a layer of orbital fat that acts much like a cushion, permitting a smooth rotation of the eyeball about a virtually fixed point, the centre of rotation. The protrusion of the eyeballs—proptosis—in exophthalmic goitre is caused by the collection of fluid in the orbital fatty tissue.

The eyelids

It is vitally important that the front surface of the eyeball, the cornea, remain moist. This is achieved by the eyelids, which during waking hours sweep the secretions of the lacrimal apparatus and other glands over the surface at regular intervals and which during sleep cover the eyes and prevent evaporation. The lids have the additional function of preventing injuries from foreign bodies, through the operation of the blink reflex. The lids are essentially folds of tissue covering the front of the orbit and, when the eye is open, leaving an almond-shaped aperture. The points of the almond are called canthi; that nearest the nose is the inner canthus, and the other is the outer canthus. The lid may be divided into four layers: (1) the skin, containing glands that open onto the surface of the lid margin, and the eyelashes; (2) a muscular layer containing principally the orbicularis oculi muscle, responsible for lid closure; (3) a fibrous layer that gives the lid its mechanical stability, its principal portions being the tarsal plates, which border directly upon the opening between the lids, called the palpebral aperture; and. (4) the innermost layer of the lid, a portion of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that serves to attach the eyeball to the orbit and lids but permits a considerable degree of rotation of the eyeball in the orbit.

The conjunctiva

The conjunctiva lines the lids and then bends back over the surface of the eyeball, constituting an outer covering to the forward part of this and terminating at the transparent region of the eye, the cornea. The portion that lines the lids is called the palpebral portion of the conjunctiva; the portion covering the white of the eyeball is called the bulbar conjunctiva. Between the bulbar and the palpebral conjunctiva there are two loose, redundant portions forming recesses that project back toward the equator of the globe. These recesses are called the upper and lower fornices, or conjunctival sacs; it is the looseness of the conjunctiva at these points that makes movements of lids and eyeball possible.

The fibrous layer

The fibrous layer, which gives the lid its mechanical stability, is made up of the thick, and relatively rigid, tarsal plates, bordering directly on the palpebral aperture, and the much thinner palpebral fascia, or sheet of connective tissue; the two together are called the septum orbitale. When the lids are closed, the whole opening of the orbit is covered by this septum. Two ligaments, the medial and lateral palpebral ligaments, attached to the orbit and to the septum orbitale, stabilize the position of the lids in relation to the globe. The medial ligament is by far the stronger.

The skin

The outermost layer of the lid is the skin, with features not greatly different from skin on the rest of the body, with the possible exception of large pigment cells, which, although found elsewhere, are much more numerous in the skin of the lids. The cells may wander, and it is these movements of the pigment cells that determine the changes in coloration seen in some people with alterations in health. The skin has sweat glands and hairs. As the junction between skin and conjunctiva is approached, the hairs change their character to become eyelashes.

The glandular apparatus

The eye is kept moist by secretions of the lacrimal glands (tear glands). These almond-shaped glands under the upper lids extend inward from the outer corner of each eye. Each gland has two portions. One portion is in a shallow depression in the part of the eye socket formed by the frontal bone. The other portion projects into the back part of the upper lid. The ducts from each gland, three to 12 in number, open into the superior conjunctival fornix, or sac. From the fornix, the tears flow down across the eye and into the puncta lacrimalia, small openings at the margin of each eyelid near its inner corner. The puncta are openings into the lacrimal ducts; these carry the tears into the lacrimal sacs, the dilated upper ends of the nasolacrimal ducts, which carry the tears into the nose.

The evaporation of the tears as they flow across the eye is largely prevented by the secretion of oily and mucous material by other glands. Thus, the meibomian, or tarsal glands, consist of a row of elongated glands extending through the tarsal plates; they secrete an oil that emerges onto the surface of the lid margin and acts as a barrier for the tear fluid, which accumulates in the grooves between the eyeball and the lid barriers.


General description

The eyeball is not a simple sphere but can be viewed as the result of fusing a small portion of a small, strongly curved sphere with a large portion of a large, not so strongly curved sphere. The small piece, occupying about one-sixth of the whole, has a radius of 8 mm (0.3 inch); it is transparent and is called the cornea; the remainder, the scleral segment, is opaque and has a radius of 12 mm (0.5 inch). The ring where the two areas join is called the limbus. Thus, on looking directly into the eye from in front one sees the white sclera surrounding the cornea; because the latter is transparent one sees, instead of the cornea, a ring of tissue lying within the eye, the iris. The iris is the structure that determines the colour of the eye. The centre of this ring is called the pupil. It appears dark because the light passing into the eye is not reflected back to any great extent. By use of an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that permits the observer to illuminate the interior of the eyeball while observing through the pupil, the appearance of the interior lining of the globe can be made out. Called the fundus oculi, it is characterized by the large blood vessels that supply blood to the retina; these are especially distinct as they cross over the pallid optic disk, or papilla, the region where the optic nerve fibres leave the globe.

The dimensions of the eye are reasonably constant, varying among normal individuals by only a millimetre or two; the sagittal (vertical) diameter is about 24 mm (about one inch) and is usually less than the transverse diameter. At birth the sagittal diameter is about 16 to 17 mm (about 0.65 inch), it increases rapidly to about 22.5 to 23 mm (about 0.89 inch) by the age of three years, and between age three and 13 the globe attains its full size. The weight is about 7.5 grams (0.25 ounce) and its volume about 6.5 cm3 (0.4 cubic inch).

The retina

The retina is the part of the eye that receives the light and converts it into chemical energy. The chemical energy activates nerves that conduct the messages out of the eye into the higher regions of the brain. The retina is a complex nervous structure, being, in essence, an outgrowth of the forebrain.

Ten layers of cells in the retina can be seen microscopically. In general, there are four main layers: (1) Next to the choroid is the pigment epithelium, already mentioned. (2) Above the epithelium is the layer of rods and cones, the light-sensitive cells. The changes induced in the rods and cones by light are transmitted to (3) a layer of neurons (nerve cells) called the bipolar cells. These bipolar cells connect with (4) the innermost layer of neurons, the ganglion cells; and the transmitted messages are carried out of the eye along their projections, or axons, which constitute the optic nerve fibres. Thus, the optic nerve is really a central tract, rather than a nerve, connecting two regions of the nervous system, namely, the layer of bipolar cells, and the cells of the lateral geniculate body, the latter being a visual relay station in the diencephalon (the rear portion of the forebrain).

Importance of Eye Care

Your eyesight is one of your most important senses: 80% of what we perceive comes through our sense of sight. By protecting your eyes, you will reduce the odds of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Eye Health = Brain Health

Healthy brain function needs healthy eyesight. The brain is our most vital organ, allowing us to live complex lives. Considering that your optic nerve connects your eyes and your brain, a healthy co-dependent relationship is necessary. By keeping your eyes healthy, you keep your brain healthy – improving your overall quality of life!

Good vision contributes to improved athletic ability, better driving skills, improved learning and comprehension and better quality of life.

Your future can be colorful and full of life just by making sure you see your optometrist as recommended. The experienced eye doctors at Medical Eye Associates in Medford are ready to help you preserve and protect your vision. Contact them today at 800-824-2688 or to schedule an eye exam.