Eye Diseases Can Be Inherited
We all know that genetics plays quite an impact on who we are and how we look. The genes you inherit decide what color your hair and eyes will be, how tall you might be, your body shape, and much more. They also play a role in if you will develop certain conditions and diseases. Diabetes is a disease that increases in likelihood if your parents have it. Eye diseases can also be genetic.
Your genetics play a factor in the development of many kinds of eye disease, including, unfortunately, some that are leading causes of blindness in infants, children, and adults. In the case of blindness in infants, over 60% of those cases are the result of genetic eye diseases, such as congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma, retinal degeneration, eye malformations, and much more.
Countless genetic eye diseases threaten both your vision and your eye health. Some conditions only lead to minor cases of vision loss, while others threaten the entirety of your eye and can even lead to blindness. It’s important to note that it isn’t always the disease itself that is inherited but a predisposition to developing it later in life.
First Eye Care McKinney is here to breakdown many common genetic eye diseases to encourage you to get your eyes checked for early diagnosis and treatment.
Myopia and Hyperopia
Myopia and hyperopia are essentially the polar opposite of each other. Commonly referred to as nearsightedness, myopia occurs when you have difficulty seeing objects far away from you but can see things close to your eyes. Alternatively, hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, occurs when you struggle to see things close to your eyes but have no issues seeing objects far away. Both conditions are refractive errors.
Myopia occurs when the eyeball grows too long, which causes the light to focus just short of the retina instead of on it. However, for those with hyperopia, their eyeball is too short, which causes light to focus behind the retina.
If you have a family history of myopia or hyperopia, your likelihood of developing these genetic eye conditions is increased.
Strabismus and Amblyopia
These two conditions are similar, yet have key differences. Strabismus is a condition where your eyes do not line up with one another. One eye typically points in a different direction than the other, leading to its name “crossed eyes.” There are six muscles in your eye that help control the movement of your eyeballs. However, for those with strabismus, these muscles struggle to work together. Studies have found a strong connection between genetics and the development of strabismus.
Amblyopia, commonly referred to as lazy eye, is an eye condition where the eyes do not develop together, leaving one eye weaker than the other. A difference in the eyes’ focusing powers often leads to amblyopia. Conditions like those mentioned previously often lead to the development of a lazy eye.
Astigmatism is a relatively common genetic eye condition. Eye specialists characterize this condition by an irregular curvature of your eye’s cornea. Typically, your cornea should be round, but for those with this condition, their cornea is oval-shaped. In normal shaped eyes, light is refracted proportionately through the eye. For those with astigmatism, light is refracted in one area more than others, which leads to only one part of an image appearing clear. Researchers have conducted studies that have found certain genes play a role in the development of this condition.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
While it is true that as you get older, your chances of developing AMD are much higher, your family history and genetics also play quite a large factor. Up to 20% of people with AMD have at least one first-degree relative (sibling or parent) with the genetic eye disease. Researchers have also identified two genes that increase the risk of AMD more than any other, known as complement and ARMS2/HTRA.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the part of the eye responsible for your clear, sharp vision, known as the macula, becomes damaged. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
Along with AMD, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in adults across the globe. It’s a group of eye diseases characterized by increasing damage to the optic nerve at the back of your eye. This nerve is responsible for sending messages to your brain to be decoded. When the optic nerve becomes damaged, it can’t properly send information to your brain, leading to blind spots.
Those with a family history of glaucoma have a much higher likelihood of developing this genetic eye disease. In fact, your chances increase by four to nine times.
The Importance of Regular Eye Exams
Just as you should be aware of any health conditions within your family, you should be aware of any eye diseases or conditions they may have, as well. Unfortunately, many of these genetic eye conditions do not have any early warning signs. Some symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
- Night blindness
- Waning vision
- Blind spots
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Trouble seeing far away or close up
- And much more
Typically, if you are beginning to experience these symptoms, your condition has already progressed. However, if you know you have a family history of eye disease, you can take a proactive approach to protect your vision.
Contact your eye care specialists to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. You should provide your eye doctor with your family’s medical records, so they can determine if further tests are needed. During an eye exam, they will check your eye for the development or risk of developing genetic eye diseases.
Once you have discovered a family history of eye disease, visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. Just because you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, doesn’t mean the condition isn’t there. Early diagnosis and treatment can save your vision. At the minimum, you should receive an eye exam once every year. However, if your doctor discovers a genetic eye disease, they may schedule more frequent eye exams to prevent permanent damage. That’s why it’s important to learn your family history and schedule an eye exam early. If you have a family history of eye disease, schedule your next appointment at First Eye Care McKinney.