How Does the Eye Work?
ANATOMY OF THE CORNEA
The eye is located in a bony shell called the orbit. It is surrounded by soft fatty tissue. Six extraocular muscles inserted on the eye provide the movements of the eye. The cornea is the outermost glass-like clear dome of the eye. This is the part that is irritated upon dust in the eye and where we place the contact lenses on. It is approximately half a millimeter (550 microns) thick and has a diameter of 12 mm (11mm to 13mm). It is like a section of a sphere. This is also that part of the eye that focuses the light rays the most. Cornea does 66% of focusing; lens does the remaining 34%. Therefore, the cornea is of utmost importance in the focusing ability of the eye. A minimal change in the structure of the cornea makes a big change in the focusing function. Therefore, refractive surgery, which has been developed to solve the refractive errors of the eye, treats these problems usually by changing the shape of the cornea.
The cornea consists of 3 main and 2 auxiliary layers. The main layers from the surface to the inner eye are Epithelium, Stroma and Endothelium. Bowman membrane lies between the epithelium and the Stroma and the Descemet layer lies between the Stroma and the endothelium. The epithelium consists of cells, which have the ability to multiply, and is covered by the tear film. It is located on Bowman’s layer and it has 5 layers of cells with a total thickness of 50 microns. The epithelium can regenerate itself. After a trauma, depending on the extent of the trauma epithelial cells multiply and cover the traumatized area within a few days. In approximately 1 week the whole epithelium can regenerate itself. Another feature of this layer is free nerve endings. This is the part of the cornea that feels irritation upon dust in the eye.
The Stroma, the main layer of the cornea that makes up 90% of the corneal thickness. The major constituent of the Stroma is collagen fibers. These collagen fibers form lamellar sheets, like the sheets of a notebook. There are 200 to 300 transparent sheets each having a thickness of 1 to 2 microns (1 mm = 1000 micron). The regular packing and equal spacing of the collagen fibers provide the transparency of the cornea. Stromal cells (keratocytes), which produce these collagen fibers, don’t have the ability to reproduce or to feel the pain. The main function of the Stroma is to give the cornea its strength and its shape like that of a dome. That is why refractive surgery is generally performed on this layer. The endothelium, which is the innermost layer of the cornea, looks like a transparent honeycomb under a microscope. The endothelium is just one layer of cells located on the Descemet membrane, but it has a vital function: to keep the cornea transparent. Normally there is equilibrium of liquid in the cornea and this is achieved by pumping excess liquid by means of the endothelium. An amazing feature of the cornea is its avascular (having no blood vessels) structure. Although it has several multifunctional layers and cells, it does not contain any blood vessels. This is necessary for its transparency. The cornea is of utmost importance for our ability to see clearly.
HOW DO WE SEE
The eye functions like a camera or more like a video camera. Light rays coming from the objects arrive on the cornea first. The cornea provides 66% of the refractive power of the eye. After focusing the light rays, it directs them to the lens through an aperture called the pupil. The lens bends, and in turn, focuses the rays again. It makes a fine adjustment to focus the light rays on the retina. This adjustment is similar to the auto-focus function of cameras. This superb, silent and continuous auto-focus function is due to the lens’ ability to change its refractive power by altering its form and thickness. This function is called accommodation. In a non-accommodating young eye the refractive power of the lens is below 20 diopters but with maximum accommodation it increases to more than 30 diopters, which is nearly equal to an 10 diopters increase in the eye’s total refractive power. Because of this ability the young eye can see both near and far objects well. After the light rays are bent at the lens, they pass through the vitreous, the jelly-like substance filling the back part of the eyeball, and reach the retina. The retina, which makes up the inner lining of the eyeball functions like a camera film, or a CCD of a digital video camera. Then light rays are converted into electrical impulses by the retina and carried to the brain by the optic nerve. These impulses are processed and perceived as images by the brain.
Dr. Kevin Niksarli
Over the past 15 years, countless LASIK Long Island and New York patients have trusted their vision correction to Dr. Kevin Niksarli. Regarded as one of the most experienced laser eye surgeons in the nation, Dr. Niksarli is proud to provide high-quality vision correction treatments to patients throughout New York, including LASIK Brooklyn and LASIK Flushing patients. If you are ready to experience life free from corrective eyewear, contact us today at 212.759.9617 or schedule your FREE Consultation online.