Our Complicated Eyes: A Simple Way of Understanding How Vision Works

Our Complicated Eyes: A Simple Way of Understanding How Vision Works

We talk so much about eyesight and seeing well that some of you may be scratching your heads and thinking, “so… how does vision work, anyway?” Many people never stop to think about the actual process involved in sight. They just take it for granted that their eyes are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Just as most of us never stop to think about how other muscles in the body work, we don’t normally think about the step-by-step process in which our eyes process light and allow us to see. The gift of eyesight is a complicated mechanism that we’ll attempt to describe in this post.

Many different parts of our eyes need to be working together, and healthy, so that we can see. After reading this post, you should have a basic understanding of the vision process and a fun peek behind what our eyes are doing when they are working so hard!

The Eye as a CameraOur Complicated Eyes: A Simple Way of Understanding How Vision Works

One way to think about eyesight is that it’s similar to how a camera works. There are many different steps a camera must process before you actually get to see a photograph or a movie.

Just as when you record something with a camera, the eyes also have a process they must go through before you can see an image (though this process happens at the speed of light).

The first step in understanding how vision works is understanding the role light plays. Light rays are reflected, or bounce, off objects and then bounce right into our eyes.

Our corneas are the transparent parts of our eyes that process these light rays; the cornea refracts the light rays through our pupils, which is why sometimes our pupils look bigger and smaller depending upon how much light our corneas are processing. For example, if you are standing in bright sunlight your pupil will be smaller, but if you are in a dimly lighted room your pupil will expand to allow the maximum amount of light to get through.

After the light rays move through our pupils, they pass through the lens of our eyes. The lenses of our eyes are directly behind our irises (the colored part of our eyes) and, like the cornea, our eye lenses are also clear.

The lenses of our eyes focus all the light rays and sends them to our retinas which are way at the back of the eye.

The retina, which contains millions of nerve cells that sense light, is a thin layer of eye tissue. In the center of our retinas lives the macula, which functions like a sponge and sunglasses.

The macula absorbs extra blue and ultraviolet lights and blocks sun from damaging our retinas. In order to work, the retina uses special light-processing cones and rods to communicate with our nerves and send impulses processing colors and details.

These impulses from the rods and cones actually tell our brains how to interpret the light rays so that we can actually see an image. Thankfully, all of this happens at the speed of light so that we can see in real time!

As you can see, excuse the pun, vision is a very intricate process and is dependent upon many different things going right before we see clearly. In order for our eyes to see clearly it is important that all the parts work as well as possible together.

Like many other people, you have probably taken your ability to see for granted. After all you’ve been able to see ever since you were born. It’s not until something begins to go wrong with our vision that most people take the time and effort to learn more about it.

Our corneas, pupils, lenses, and retinas (and the millions of cells within them), must be in good working order before our brains actually “see” an image. This is why it is so important for us to keep our eyes healthy and strong. Problems with any of the separate parts that make up our eyes can cause vision problems for us. As we age these problems become more serious and can lead to the need for corrective lenses, surgery or even blindness.

Take good care of your eyes by eating a healthy diet (supplementing with vitamins for eye health if you need to), and keeping your eyes in shape with our simple eye exercises.


One natural way to protect your eyes and all their hard working parts, is to expand your diet to include foods which contain the vitamins and minerals that your eyes need. Many of the vitamins and minerals needed by your eyes are good for your overall health as well. So by taking caring of your vision you are also taking care of the rest of your body, too. We understand that some people have had bad experiences with “diets”; a good eye health supplement can take the place of a healthy diet if that would work better for you.


Exercise doesn’t just keep your body in shape, it plays a major role in the health of your eyes as well. Cardiovascular workouts, like aerobics, have been proven to lower intraocular pressure. This is especially beneficial to people suffering from glaucoma.

Doing regular cardio exercise will also increase the flow of blood to the optic nerve and the retina, helping your eyes to function properly for many, many years to come.

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  1. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Tom M. says:

    Thanks Tyler. I am impressed by the data you publish, regarding eye health. What you print makes sense and is valued. As I age, I’m becoming more focused on searching out factual information and using this to build my life on.
    Fact is something has to actually work, for me to even consider using it. Eye exercises make the eye stronger and flexible. Whilst I’m loath to admit it, I do eye exercises because I read your emails. [Should be doing them because I see better].
    Hmm, keep sending your emails. Apparently I’m in a motivational drain. Warm regards, Tom.

  2. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen LInda says:

    Do you have any suggestions for what are the best non-Rx sunglasses for blocking UV & blue light (to help when we have “mild macular degeneration” per my eye doctor?

    Also, I have been doing eye exercises for 150 days now, I am having new glasses for work done using a lower Rx than before, as you suggested, because I need to be able to see clearly to work on spreadsheets all day on computer. Once I retire I hope to get rid of glasses for ever!!

    • Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Tyler Sorensen says:

      Congratulations on your vision improvement. We love hearing success stories. 🙂 As far as the sunglasses go, we recommend speaking to your eye doctor about this as every case is different.

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About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics (just like his brother) with the dream of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he joined Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent nearly two decades studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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