Optical anisotropy of the human cornea determined with a polarizing microscope

Appl Opt. 2007 Dec 1;46(34):8351-7. doi: 10.1364/ao.46.008351.


We have investigated the optical anisotropy of the human cornea using a polarizing microscope normally used for optical mineralogy studies. The central part of the cornea was removed from 14 eyes (seven donors). With the sample placed on the microscope stage, we consistently observed hyperbolic isogyres characteristic of a negative biaxial material. The angle between the optic axes, generally similar in both eyes, ranged from 12 degrees to 40 degrees (mean+/-SD=31 degrees +/-8 degrees ). The optic axial plane always inclined downward in the nasal direction at 1 degrees -45 degrees below the horizontal (mean+/-SD=22+/-13 degrees ). The retardance produced by the corneas was estimated to be less than 200 nm. In conclusion, the human cornea possesses the anisotropy of a negative biaxial material. Both the angle between the optic axes and the retardance were fairly constant among the majority of samples, suggestive of uniformity in corneal structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anisotropy*
  • Birefringence
  • Cornea / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / physiology
  • Light
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Polarization*
  • Middle Aged
  • Refraction, Ocular / physiology
  • Refractometry / methods