Everyone has known a family where almost every member wears glasses or contact lenses. It might even be your family. Understandably, people make a connection between eye health and genetics. How valid is the idea that genetics will affect eye health? Read more to learn about the relationship between genetics and eye health.
The short answer is yes, genetics do affect eye health and vision. Our genes code eye development, including shape, iris color, the shape of the cornea, and even which colors the eye can receive. Also, many congenital conditions, such as AMD and glaucoma, have genetic factors. Some conditions accompany other genetically-coded disorders, such as arthritis and psoriasis. The effectiveness of some treatments can also depend on your genetics.
Genetic markers tend to create risk factors. With a few exceptions, these risk factors aren’t guarantees that a condition will occur. Instead, they raise the odds that a condition might appear. For example, some families have a disposition to a so-called lazy eye. In most cases, it is a treatable condition, and there are steps to reduce the risk.
If you know that your family is at heightened risk for a problem, you can seek screenings early. This includes as you get older. If several people in your family have required cataract surgery, you can begin screenings before the age that those people have required care. You also can take preventive steps, such as wearing strong sunglasses and avoiding work that involves bright flashes.
The list of genetically-influenced eye disorders is long. Some of the most common vision issues, like nearsightedness and farsightedness, have genetic components. Color blindness is a heavily genetically predisposed condition. Even conditions we consider fundamentally age-related often have a hereditary element. Age-related macular degeneration, for example, runs in families.
One of the best things you can do is to track your family’s history. If anyone within a couple of generations of you has had a problem, as an eye doctor, to screen for it. People who have children should take the same approach with their kids starting before the preschool years.
Treatment options will vary based on the condition. Some conditions are highly treatable. For example, being cross-eyed tends to run in families. With early intervention, doctors can treat most cases well with therapy.
Surgical interventions may be possible. LASIK surgery is a standard treatment for many types of poor vision due to corneal shape. Surgery is also a common intervention for cataracts.
Treatment for some conditions involves delaying progression or avoiding aggravating the problem. Dry-eye disorders, for example, are usually treated with a combination of hygiene regimens and avoiding certain environmental conditions. Prescription drugs are frequently used, too.
Fortunately, treatment is commonly possible for most genetically-influenced eye health problems. If you have concerns about a potential genetically-affected vision issue, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.