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The eye and vision

Medical optics

1. Structure and function of the eye

Structure and function of the eye

The human body is sensitive to most electromagnetic radiations. Microwave and infrared produce the sensation of warmth. Ultraviolet and ionising radiations can produce chemical changes and cause biological damage such as skin cancer. The eye is the one organ of the body design to respond specifically, to receive (or perceive) a part of the electromagnetic spectrum- visible lighthaving wavelengths between 380 and 760 nm.

Spectrum of Electromagnetic radiation

Structure- function
1. Conjunctiva -Is a thin protective covering of epithelial cells. It protects the cornea against damage by friction (tears from the tear glands help this process by lubricating the surface of the conjunctiva)

2. Cornea -Is the transparent, curved front of the eye which helps to converge the light rays which enter the eye
3. Sclera -Is an opaque, fibrous, protective outer structure. It is soft connective tissue, and the spherical shape of the eye is maintained by the pressure of the liquid inside. It provides attachment surfaces for eye muscles

Structure- function
2. Choroid - Has a network of blood vessels to supply nutrients to the cells and remove waste products. It is pigmented that makes the retina appear black, thus preventing reflection of light within the eyeball. 3. Ciliary body- Has suspensory ligaments that hold the lens in place. It secretes the aqueous humour, and contains ciliary muscles that enable the lens to change shape, during accommodation (focusing on near and distant objects) 4. Iris -Is a pigmented muscular structure consisting of an inner ring of circular muscle and an outer layer of radial muscle. Its function is to help control the amount of light entering the eye so that: - too much light does not enter the eye which would damage the retina - enough light enters to allow a person to see 5. Pupil -Is a hole in the middle of the iris where light is allowed to continue

Structure- function
6. Lens -Is a transparent, flexible, curved structure. Its function is to focus incoming light rays onto the retina using its refractive properties 7. Retina -Is a layer of sensory neurones, the key structures being photoreceptors (rod and cone cells) which respond to light. Contains relay neurones and sensory neurones that pass impulses along the optic nerve to the part of the brain that controls vision 8. Fovea (yellow spot) A part of the retina that is directly opposite the pupil and contains only cone cells. It is responsible for good visual acuity (good resolution

9. Blind spot -Is where the bundle of sensory fibres form the optic nerve; it contains no lightsensitive receptors 10. Vitreous humour -Is a transparent, jelly-like mass located behind the lens. It acts as a suspension for the lens so that the delicate lens is not damaged. It helps to maintain the shape of the posterior chamber of the eyeball 11. Aqueous humour -Helps to maintain the shape of the anterior chamber of the eyeball

Optic Nerve - The biological pathway to the brain stem, which forwards electrical energy to the occipital lobe. Occipital Lobe - The part of the brain that converts electrical energy into an image.

How the Eye Functions?

As light enters the eye, it first passes through the cornea, the clear outer portion of the eye. Because the cornea is curved, the light rays bend, allowing light to pass through the pupil to the lens. The iris, or colored part of the eye, regulates the amount of light that enters the eye with the ciliary muscles. These muscles cause the pupil to contract when exposed to excess light or to dilate when there is too little light. When light hits the curved surface of the lens, it is refracted and brought into focus on the retina. The retina then turns the light into electrical energy. This energy passes through the optic nerve to the brain stem and finally into the occipital lobe, where it is converted into an image.

Refraction and the Eye

Refraction is the phenomenon which makes image formation possible by the eye as well as by cameras and other systems of lenses. Most of that refraction in the eye takes place at the first surface, since the transition from the air into the cornea is the largest change in index of refraction which the light experiences. About 80% of the refraction occurs in the cornea and about 20% in the inner crystalline lens. While the inner lens is the smaller portion of the refraction, it is the total source of the ability to accommodate the focus of the eye for the viewing of close objects. For the normal eye, the inner lens can change the total focal length of the eye by 7-8%.

Common eye defects are often called "refractive errors" and they can usually be corrected by relatively simple compensating lenses

Refractive index
The greatest change of direction, or bending of the rays, occurs where the difference of refractive index is greatest, and this is when light passes from air into the cornea, the refractive index of the corneal substance being 1.3376; the refractive indices of the cornea and aqueous humour are not greatly different, that of the aqueous humour being 1.336 (as is that of the vitreous); thus, the bending, as the rays meet the concave posterior surface of the cornea and emerge into a medium of slightly less refractive index, is small. The lens has a greater refractive index than that of its surrounding aqueous humour and vitreous body, 1.386 to 1.406, so that its two surfaces contribute to convergence, the posterior surface normally more than the anterior surface because of its greater curvature (smaller radius).

Physical structure of human retina

In adult humans the entire retina is approximately 72% of a sphere about 22 mm in diameter. The entire retina contains about 7 million cones and 75 to 150 million rods. An area of the retina is the optic disc, sometimes known as "the blind spot" because it lacks photoreceptors. It appears as an oval white area of 3 mm.

Temporal (in the direction of the temples) to this disc is the macula. At its center is the fovea, a pit that is most sensitive to light and is responsible for our sharp central vision.
Human and non-human primates possess one fovea as opposed to certain bird species such as hawks who actually are bifoviate and dogs and cats who possess no fovea but a central band known as the visual streak. Around the fovea extends the central retina for about 6 mm and then the peripheral retina. The edge of the retina is defined by the ora serrata. The length from one ora to the other (or macula), the most sensitive area along the horizontal is about 3.2 mm.

Retinal structure

The retina is a seven-layered structure

Retinal structure
The retina is a seven-layered structure involved in signal transduction. In general, dark "nuclear" or "cell" layers contain cell bodies, while pale "plexiform" layers contain axons and dendrites. Trace the signal through the retina: - Light enters from the GCL side first, and must penetrate all cell types before reaching the rods and cones. - The outer segments of the rods and cones transduce the light and send the signal through the cell bodies of the ONL and out to their axons. - In the OPL photoreceptor axons contact the dendrites of bipolar cells and horizontal cells. Horizontal cells are interneurons which aid in signal processing. - The bipolar cells in the INL process input from photoreceptors and horizontal cells, and transmit the signal to their axons. - In the IPL, bipolar axons contact ganglion cell dendrites and amacrine cells, another class of interneurons. - The ganglion cells of the GCL send their axons through the OFL to the optic disk to make up the optic nerve. They travel all the way to the lateral geniculate nucleus.

Rods and cones

The retina contains two types of photoreceptors, rods and cones. The rods are more numerous, some 120 million, and are more sensitive than the cones. However, they are not sensitive to color. The 6 to 7 million cones provide the eye's color sensitivity and they are much more concentrated in the central yellow spot known as the macula. In the center of that region is the " fovea centralis ", a 0.3 mm diameter rod-free area with very thin, densely packed cones. The experimental evidence suggests that among the cones there are three different types of color reception. Response curves for the three types of cones have been determined. Since the perception of color depends on the firing of these three types of nerve cells, it follows that visible color can be mapped in terms of three numbers called tristimulus values. Color perception has been successfully modeled in terms of tristimulus values and mapped on the chromaticity diagram.

Electron microscopy image

The rods employ a sensitive photopigment called rhodopsin

The chromophor: 11-cis retinal

rhodopsine (11 cis-retinal-opsine)

Photochemical reaction and conversion to all-trans retinal

The cones are less sensitive to light than the rods, as shown a typical day-night comparison. The daylight vision (cone vision) adapts much more rapidly to changing light levels, adjusting to a change like coming indoors out of sunlight in a few seconds. Like all neurons, the cones fire to produce an electrical impulse on the nerve fiber and then must reset to fire again. The light adaptation is thought to occur by adjusting this reset time. The cones are responsible for all high resolution vision. The eye moves continually to keep the light from the object of interest falling on the fovea centralis where the bulk of the cones reside.

Luminous Efficacy The curves represent the spectral luminous efficacy for human vision. The lumen is defined such that the peak of the photopic vision curve has a luminous efficacy of 683 lumens/watt. This value for the scotopic peak makes the efficacy the same as the photopic value at 555 nm. The scotopic vision is primarily rod vision, and the photopic vision includes the cones. The response curve of the eye along with the spectral power distribution of a luminous object determine the perceived color of the object.

Spectral response:The Color-Sensitive Cones

In 1965 came experimental confirmation of a long expected result there are three types of color-sensitive cones in the retina of the human eye, corresponding roughly to red, green, and blue sensitive detectors. Painstaking experiments have yielded response curves for three different kind of cones in the retina of the human eye. The "green" and "red" cones are mostly packed into the fovea centralis. By population, about 64% of the cones are red-sensitive, about 32% green sensitive, and about 2% are blue sensitive. The "blue" cones have the highest sensitivity and are mostly found outside the fovea. The shapes of the curves are obtained by measurement of the absorption by the cones, but the relative heights for the three types are set equal for lack of detailed data. There are fewer blue cones, but the blue sensitivity is comparable to the others, so there must be some boosting mechanism. In the final visual perception, the three types seem to be comparable, but the detailed process of achieving this is not known.

Spectral response
The minimum or threshold intensity needed to see a flash of light is very wavelength dependent. The cornea is opague to wavelength shorter then 300 nm, and the lens to wavelength below 380 nm. Rods and cones do not detect wavelength above 700 nm. Although the rods do not give any color information, they are most sensitive to light in the green part of the spectrum , with wavelength of about 510 nm.

Sensibilitatea spectrala a conurilor si bastonaselor. Conurile si bastonasele sunt sensibile la lungimi de unda diferite ale spectrului vizibil.

Deci retina contine patru foto-receptori : bastonasele si trei tipuri de conuri, fiecare dintre ele specializate pentru absorbtia unei alte portiuni a spectrului vizibil : - Conuri care absorb lungimi de unda mari (rosu) - Conuri care absorb lungimi de unda medii (verde) - Conuri care absorb lungimi de unda mici (albastru) .


When the eye is relaxed and the interior lens is the least rounded, the lens has its maximum focal length for distant viewing . As the muscle tension around the ring of muscle is increased and the supporting fibers are thereby loosened, the interior lens rounds out to its minimum focal length..


Eye Diseases and Refractive Errors

Refractive Errors Nearsightedness (myopia) - Nearsighted vision is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea that results in light focusing in front of the retina, rather than directly on the retina. People who are nearsighted have difficulty seeing objects at a distance. Farsightedness (hypermetropia) - Farsighted vision is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea that results in light focusing behind the retina instead of directly on the retina. People who are farsighted have difficulty seeing nearby objects. Astigmatism - The most common of all eye disorders, astigmatism is a condition in which the eyeball is shaped more like a football than its naturally spherical shape. This odd shape causes light to focus on two points of the retina, rather than one. Presbyopia (old sight) - Presbyopia occurs when the lens of the eye becomes less flexible, necessitating the use of reading glasses for near vision. Specifically, the lens becomes stiffer, and the muscles that control the lens become weaker, hindering its ability to bend and flatten in order to focus light on the retina.

Is a refractive defect of the eye in which collimated light produces image focus in front of the retina when accommodation is relaxed. Those with myopia see nearby objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred. With myopia, the eyeball is too long, or the cornea is too steep, so images are focused in the vitreous inside the eye rather than on the retina at the back of the eye. The opposite defect of myopia is hyperopia or "farsightedness" or "long-sightedness"this is where the cornea is too flat or the eye is too short.

Myopia and correction with diverging lens

Thin lens formula

1 1 1 x2 xR fC

fc = focus distance of the eye lens (biconvex crystal) X2 = the distance between the crystal and retina XR= distance between the object and retina The optical system consist of the eye crystal with fc and the glasses with f0:the corrected image is on the retina.

1 1 1 1 x2 fC f0

1 1 0 f0 xR
(1) (2)

fo < 0 Diverging lens for correction

(2) - (1) ,

Consider a man whose far point is 0,5 m. The distance between the eye crystal and the retina is ~20 mm =0.02 m. The power of his eye when fully relaxed is P= 1/ f .

1 1 Pf 52 dioptrii 0,5 0,02

To have his far point at infinity , the man needs the power to be :


1 1 50 dioptrii 0,02

When wearing the glasses, the effective power is the algebraic sum of the powers of his eyes and his lenses, assuming the lenses are close to the eye: P= Pi Pf = 50-52= -2 dioptres . So he need diverging lenses to see distant object clearly.

Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, longsightedness or hypermetropia, is a defect of vision caused by an imperfection in the eye (often when the eyeball is too short or when the lens cannot become round enough), causing difficulty focusing on near objects, and in extreme cases causing a sufferer to be unable to focus on objects at any distance. As an object moves toward the eye, the eye must increase its power to keep the image in focus on the retina. If the power of the cornea and lens is insufficient, as in hyperopia, the image will appear blurred. Hyperopia, and restoring of vision with convex lens. People with hyperopia can experience blurred vision, asthenopia, accommodative dysfunction, binocular dysfunction, amblyopia, and strabismus.

Hypermetropia, correction with converging lenses.

Thin lens formula

fc =focus distance of the eye lens (biconvex crystal) X2 = the distance between the crystal and retina Xp= distance between the object and retina The optical system is made of the crystal (fc) and the glasses (fo) and will bring the near point of an object placed at = -25 cm to the retina. (1)-(2)

1 1 1 x2 x P fC

1 1 1 1 x2 fC f0

1 1 1 f0 xP


1 xP 0 f0 x P

Consider a man whose far point is 2 m and the distance from the eye crystal to the retina is ~20 mm= 0.02 m. The power of his eye when fully relaxed is :
1 1 PN 50 dioptrii 2 0,02

To focus at 0.25 m the man will need a power :

1 1 PN ' 54 dioptrii 0,25 0,02

So the correction must provide a power of + 4 dioptres to give him a near point of 0.25 m. P= 54 - 50= 4 dioptres


This is usually caused by the cornea being not spherically curved, so that it has different curvatures in different directions. Images are seen in shaper focus in one direction, e.g. vertical, than in others. It is corrected by lenses that have a cylindrical curvature in the correct orientation to compensate for the cornea.

Eye Diseases
Cataracts - A cataract is a condition characterized by a clouding of the eyes natural lens. This clouding occurs when protein begins to clump together in the lens. Glaucoma - Glaucoma is an eye disease that occurs when elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) causes damage to the optic nerve. Macular degeneration - Macular degeneration is a degenerative eye disease that is characterized by a loss of central vision. It occurs when the macula (a tiny area on the retina) becomes damaged. Diabetic retinopathy - Diabetic retinopathy is a degenerative eye disease that occurs in patients with diabetes and is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth. This can eventually lead to a detached retina and blindness.

A hawk's eye

Animation movie