The cornea is a transparent structure that is part of the outer layer of the eye. It refracts light and protects the contents of the eye. The corneal thickness ranges from 450 to 610 micrometers and on an average 550 µm thick in caucasian eyes. In Indian eyes, the average thickness is slightly less at 510 µm. The trigeminal nerve supplies the cornea via the long ciliary nerves. There are pain receptors in the outer layers and pressure receptors are deeper.
Transparency is achieved through a lack of blood vessels, pigmentation, and keratin, and through tight layered organization of the collagen fibers. The collagen fibers cross the full diameter of the cornea in a strictly parallel fashion and allow 99 percent of the light to pass through without scattering.

There are five layers in the human cornea, from outer to inner:
  • Epithelium
  • Bowman's layer
  • Stroma
  • Descemet's membrane
  • Endothelium
The outer layer is the epithelium, which is 25 to 40 µm and five to seven cell layers thick. The epithelium holds the tear film in place and also prevents water from invading the cornea and disrupting the collagen fibers. This prevents corneal edema, which gives it a cloudy appearance. It is also a barrier to infectious agents. The epithelium sticks to the basement membrane, which also separates the epithelium from the stroma. The corneal stroma comprises 90 percent of the thickness of the cornea. It contains the collagen fibers organized into lamellae. The lamellae are in sheets which separate easily. Posterior to the stroma is Descemet's membrane, which is a basement membrane for the corneal endothelium. The endothelium is a single cell layer that separates the cornea from the aqueous humor.