Family genes are the #1 cause of eye disease, but it is possible to reduce your risk.
We know that our appearance and personalities are often a result of genes passed down from our parents, grandparents and previous generations. However, there are also some aspects within our genetic code that can lead to higher risks for certain diseases and conditions.
Knowing your family history can help you and your doctor to be aware of which conditions to be on the lookout for.
Genes and eye disease
Although most eye diseases have multiple causes, more than 350 of them have a clear genetic component.
Here are the most common eye diseases that often surface as a result of a family history of the condition.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness around the world, resulting in permanent optic nerve damage— frequently caused by increased pressure within the eye.
Having a family history of glaucoma increases your chances of developing the disease by up to 9 times.
Knowing your family history of this sight-threatening disease can provide valuable information regarding your risk of severe glaucoma and permanent vision loss.
2. Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is sight-threatening eye disease that causes permanent damage to the macula, the inner eye structure responsible for central vision.
Having a family history of AMD makes you 4 times more likely to develop this serious eye condition— and about 1 in 5 people with AMD will also have an affected sibling or parent.
A cataract is the clouding of your eye’s naturally transparent lens.
A study published in IOVS (July 2001) revealed that up to 58% of age-related cataracts are due to genetics, while the rest are due to environmental factors and acquired eye injuries.
4. Diabetic retinopathy
Research published in Current Genomics (2019) showed that genetics account for up to 25% of a person’s risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy, as well as its rate of progression.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that affects the retinal health of people who have diabetes.
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Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you if you have a family history of eye diseases, or have noticed any changes in your vision.
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Other eye conditions that tend to run in families
The good news is that a family history of eye disease doesn’t guarantee that you will develop the same disease or condition.
Both environmental and lifestyle factors play a big role as well, and being aware of your genes can help you to take preventative measures to protect your eye health.
How can you protect yourself from eye disease?
The best protection involves scheduling annual eye exams to monitor your eye health and help you catch eye disease as early as possible.
When eye disease is treated or controlled early on, the chances of permanent vision loss are significantly reduced.
It’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a wholesome diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting a goodnight’s sleep, and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking, can greatly reduce your risk of developing certain eye diseases— even if your family history says otherwise.
Do I need to have my eyes checked if I don’t have a family history of eye disease?
Many serious eye diseases like glaucoma and AMD can sneak up on you without any warning signs or symptoms.
The only way to detect these diseases before they cause any permanent damage is to have annual eye exams.
LEARN MORE: Guide to Eye Health
Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you if you have a family history of any eye disease.
Genetics play a vital role in eye health, so knowing your family history can help you and your doctor to be aware of which conditions to be on the lookout for.
Scheduling annual eye exams are vital for monitoring your eye health and can help you catch eye disease as early as possible.
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