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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

Parts of the Eye: Physiology and Eye Anatomy

The human eye is a marvel of biological engineering. Understanding its anatomy and physiology is key to unraveling the mysteries of vision. Today, we talk about the parts of the eye and how they work together. From the cornea to the retina, optic nerves to the iris, this simply laid-out article sheds light on the remarkable mechanisms at play.

Main Parts of the Eye

Understanding the parts of the eye and their functions is key to understanding how vision works. As well as for diagnosing and treating various eye conditions and diseases.

eye parts anatomy

Tear Glands (Lacrimal Glands)

The lacrimal glands are responsible for producing tears. The tear production keeps the eye moist, protects it from foreign objects, and washes away debris or foreign particles.


The sclera is the tough, white outer layer of the eye that provides protection and structural support and maintains the eye's shape. It is also known as the "white of the eye."


The conjunctiva is a thin, clear membrane covering the front surface of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids. It helps protect the eye and keeps the eye moist.


The cornea is the clear, frontmost part of the eye. Even though it is transparent, it serves as a protective outer layer of the eye. The cornea is responsible for refracting (bending) light entering the eye. This eye part also plays a crucial role in focusing light onto the lens.

Aqueous Humor

Aqueous humor is a clear, watery fluid that fills the front part of the eye (the anterior chamber). It helps maintain the eye's pressure and nourishes the cornea and lens.


The iris is the colored part of the eye, surrounding the pupil. It regulates the amount of light entering the eye by adjusting pupil size in response to different lighting conditions.


The pupil is the black circular opening in the center of the iris. It allows light to enter the eye and can change in size to control the amount of light reaching the retina.


Located behind the cornea, iris, and pupil, the lens is a transparent, flexible structure that further focuses incoming light onto the retina. Changes in the shape of the lens, known as accommodation, allow the eye to adjust its focus for objects at different distances.

Ciliary Body (Ciliary Muscles)

The ciliary body is a structure that contains the ciliary muscle. It surrounds the lens and is responsible for changing the shape of the lens to focus on objects at different distances. The ciliary body also produces aqueous humor.

Vitreous Humor

Vitreous humor is a gel-like substance that fills the back part of the eye (the vitreous chamber). In simple words, it's the fill of the space between the lens and the retina. It helps to maintain the eye's shape and transmit light to the retina.


The retina is the innermost layer of the eye. It contains special photoreceptor cells (rods and cones). These cells are responsible for detecting and converting light into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. The center region of the retina is called the macula, which is responsible for central vision.


The choroid is a vascular layer (contains blood vessels) between the retina and the sclera. It supplies blood and nutrients to the retina and helps regulate the amount of light entering the eye.

Optic Nerve

The optic nerve is a bundle of over one million nerve fibers transmitting visual information from the retina to the brain. It serves as the communication link between the eye and the brain, allowing for the interpretation of visual stimuli.

Extraocular Muscles

These are a group of six muscles surrounding the eye and controlling its movement. They allow the eye to move in different directions, enabling us to track objects and focus on different points in our field of view:

  • Superior rectus (upward movement)

  • Superior oblique (downward and outward movement)

  • Inferior rectus (downward movement)

  • Inferior oblique (upward and outward movement)

  • Lateral rectus (outward movement)

  • Medial rectus (inward movement)

eye muscles

How Eye Components Facilitate Vision?

Light Refraction

Light enters the eye through the cornea, which provides the first refractive surface. It is further refracted by the lens to focus the light onto the retina.

Image Formation

The cornea and lens work together to create an inverted and reversed image of the external world on the retina. The brain then processes the image to create a perception of the right-side-up visual field.

Photoreceptor Function

The photoreceptor cells in the retina (rods and cones), detect the intensity and color of light. Rods are more sensitive in low-light conditions and provide black-and-white vision. While cones are responsible for color vision in bright light.

Transmission of Signals

Once the photoreceptors detect light, they convert it into electrical signals. These signals are processed and transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain's visual centers, primarily the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.

Vascular and Nervous Supply to the Eye

Vascular Supply

The eye receives its blood supply from two main sources: the ophthalmic artery and the ciliary arteries. These arteries deliver oxygen and nutrients to the various parts of the eye, including the retina.

Nervous Supply

The eye also has a rich nervous supply. Primarily through the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) and the optic nerve (cranial nerve II). The trigeminal nerve provides sensory innervation to the cornea, conjunctiva, and other anterior eye structures. The optic nerve carries visual signals from the retina to the brain.

Understanding the complex interplay of the parts of the eye and their functions is vital for comprehending the process of vision. As well as for diagnosing and managing eye conditions and disorders.

If you want to know how to take care of your eye health, check out the Ophthalmology24 Blog.

Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.


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