Posted by: Carolinas Center for Sight in Eye Health

Much like breathing or the action of our beating heart, the process of seeing is automatic – we don’t have to think about it at all and after an immense amount of small parts all perform their specific functions, we can see the world around us. Similar to any other complicated piece of machinery or equipment, our eyes can malfunction if any one of their parts stops working properly, so it’s imperative that we maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep our eyes strong. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly we see, keep reading.

Rays Of Light

The moment that light hits our eyes, a complex set of processes begins. The very first portion of the eye it touches is the cornea, which acts as a thin protective cover over the eye. Powerful in its own way, the cornea can bend light so that it travels through the pupil, the black portion of our eyes that we can easily see in the mirror. The pupil is essentially a hole within a larger portion called the iris, which can change its size depending on the lighting conditions we’re in.

Inner Workings 

Now that light has entered the eye, what happens next? One of the most important portions of the eye is the lens, a flexible clear structure that helps to focus light property by changing its shape. As we age, the lens loses its ability to move and starts to harden, thus making it more difficult to see clearly. The main goal of the lens is to ensure that light rays travel directly to the retina after passing through the vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye to keep its shape.

Once light reaches the retina, the real magic begins. Located at the back of the eye, these cells work to transform the visual image you’re viewing into millions of electrical impulses that travel via the optic nerve to your brain. All of this happens so quickly that we don’t experience any type of delay and are instantly able to understand the images before us.

When Things Go Awry

The above process is what happens in an individual with perfect 20/20 vision, yet every part of one’s eye anatomy isn’t always ideal. For some, the eye isn’t a perfect globe and when the lens tries to focus light on the retina, the image doesn’t translate clearly. Others who have certain diseases or conditions might have a damaged retina, a lens that doesn’t move very much, or any other number of concerns that affect the way they see. 

Our vision is an amazing and complex process and we’ve only just summarized all of the steps involved when it comes to how we see. As impressive as our visual system is, it’s key to remember that it can be equally as delicate, so remember to take care of your eyes like you would any other part of your body. Visit your eye care professional regularly, wear safety glasses when needed, and eat a balanced diet to provide your eyes with the nutrients they need to thrive.

View the full infographic here.