A partnership promoting eye health and vision care
Close up image of a plastic model of an eye

How your eyes work

Illustration of an open eye The open eye features the pupil, the black centre, the iris, the coloured ring surrounding the pupil, and the sclera, the white of the eye. The caruncle is tucked into the inner corner of the eye, while the upper and lower eyelids lubricate and protect. Our vision allows us to be aware of our surroundings. Eighty per cent of everything we learn is through our sight.

Your eye works in a similar way to a camera. When you look at an object, light reflected from the object enters the eyes through the pupil and is focused through the optical components within the eye.

The front of the eye is made of the cornea, iris, pupil and lens, and focuses the image onto the retina. The retina is the light sensitive membrane that covers the back of the eye. This membrane consists of millions of nerve cells which gather together behind the eye to form a large nerve called the optic nerve.

Illustration showing the anatomy of the eye Image of eye anatomy side view. At the front of the eye is the cornea and anterior chamber underneath it. Below that is the iris, the coloured ring which surrounds the pupil, which is the opening in the centre. The lens is underneath the iris and held in place by the suspensory ligament at the top and the posterior chamber and ciliary body and muscle below the eye. The retina forms the circular shape at the back of the eye surrounded by a layer called the choroid and then another layer called the sclera. Within the retina is the macula the size of a pinpoint, vitreous body and blood vessels. The optic nerve protrudes from the back of the eyeball and consist of blood vessels.

When the light enters the eye, it is focused to a pinpoint on the macula, a small area in the centre of the retina at the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for central detailed vision, allowing you to see fine detail and colour, read and recognise faces.

When light stimulates the nerve cells in the retina, messages are sent along the optic nerve to the brain. The optic nerves from the two eyes join inside the brain. The brain uses information from each optic nerve to combine the vision from the two eyes allowing you to see one image.

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For more information

Watch the 'How the eye works' video published by Vision Australia:



Download our information sheet:


How your eyes work (PDF)  

How your eyes work (RTF)