THE HUMAN EYE
The entire eye, often called the eyeball, is a spherical structure approximately 2.5 cm (about 1 in) in diameter with a pronounced bulge on its forward surface. The outer part of the eye is composed of three layers of tissue. The outside layer is the sclera, a protective coating. It covers about five-sixths of the surface of the eye. At the front of the eyeball, it is continuous with the bulging, transparent cornea. The middle layer of the coating of the eye is the choroid, a vascular layer lining the posterior three-fifths of the eyeball. The choroid is continuous with the ciliary body and with the iris, which lies at the front of the eye. The innermost layer is the light-sensitive retina.
The cornea is a tough, five-layered membrane through which light is admitted to the interior of the eye. Behind the cornea is a chamber filled with clear, watery fluid, the aqueous humor, which separates the cornea from the crystalline lens. The lens itself is a flattened sphere constructed of a large number of transparent fibers arranged in layers. It is connected by ligaments to a ringlike muscle, called the ciliary muscle, which surrounds it. The ciliary muscle and its surrounding tissues form the ciliary body. This muscle, by flattening the lens or making it more nearly spherical, changes its focal length.
THE FUNCTION OF EYE
Focusing the eye, as mentioned above, is accomplished by a flattening or thickening (rounding) of the lens. The process is known as accommodation. In the normal eye accommodation is not necessary for seeing distant objects. The lens, when flattened by the suspensory ligament, brings such objects to focus on the retina. For nearer objects the lens is increasingly rounded by ciliary muscle contraction, which relaxes the suspensory ligament. A young child can see clearly at a distance as close as 6.3 cm (2.5 in), but with increasing age the lens gradually hardens, so that the limits of close seeing are approximately 15 cm (about 6 in) at the age of 30 and 40 cm (16 in) at the age of 50. In the later years of life most people lose the ability to accommodate their eyes to distances within reading or close working range. This condition, known as presbyopia, can be corrected by the use of special convex lenses for the near range.
The most common disease of the eyelids is hordeolum, known commonly as a sty, which is an infection of the follicles of the eyelashes, usually caused by infection by staphylococci. Internal sties that occur inside the eyelid and not on its edge are similar infections of the lubricating Meibomian glands. Abscesses of the eyelids are sometimes the result of penetrating wounds. Several congenital defects of the eyelids occasionally occur, including coloboma, or cleft eyelid, and ptosis, a drooping of the upper lid. Among acquired defects are symblepharon, an adhesion of the inner surface of the eyelid to the eyeball, which is most frequently the result of burns. Entropion, the turning of the eyelid inward toward the cornea, and ectropion, the turning of the eyelid outward, can be caused by scars or by spasmodic muscular contractions resulting from chronic irritation. The eyelids also are subject to several diseases of the skin such as eczema and acne, and to both benign and malignant tumors. Another eye disease is infection of the conjunctiva, the mucous membranes covering the inside of the eyelids and the outside of the eyeball.