Genetics and DNA composition play an equally important role on the health of your eyes. Knowing your family health and how to spot irregularities early can save you from potential vision problems.
Like many other illnesses, hereditary issues such as family medical history and DNA composition play an equally important part in having healthy eyesight. Eye health is not as visible to the eye — so to speak — as much of the problems happen within the body. Most times there are no warning signs.
It’s in the Genes
Vision plays an important role in our development as growing children. The Cleveland Clinic reported that genetic factors play a role in many types of eye disease, including diseases that are the leading cause of blindness among infants, children and adults.
“More than 60 percent of cases of blindness among infants are caused by inherited eye diseases such as congenital (present at birth) cataracts, congenital glaucoma, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy and eye malformations.
In adults, “Glaucoma and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) are two of the leading causes of blindness, and both appear to be inherited in a large portion of cases”, notes Cleveland Clinic. Researchers have started identifying genes involved in macular degeneration; the genes that cause retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina that causes night blindness and gradual vision loss. Indeed, knowing past and present family eye disorders can help save your vision! For instance, if AMD runs in your family, you have 50% chance of developing it.
The next question would be whether common vision problems can be inherited. The answer is ‘Yes’ and they are most common among children and adults, such as are Strabismus (cross-eyes), Amblyopia (lazy eye) and refraction errors such as Myopia (near-sightedness), Hyperopia (farsightedness) and Astigmatism..
Some of the more serious inherited eye diseases are a dislocated lens in the eye which confirms a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disease also associated with heart problems. A characteristic cherry red spot in the eye usually indicates Tay-Sachs disease.
Glaucoma, which is often thought to be an eye problem common amongst older people also comes in many inherited forms that affect young children such as Primary Congenital Glaucoma. Generally, glaucoma is a condition where the optic nerve cells are progressively damaged due to pressure from inside the eye. This causes the loss of peripheral vision.
AMD is a condition where the eye’s central retina deteriorates, thus distorting a person’s central vision. This condition is not entirely treatable. Although it generally occurs due to the aging process, there are rare hereditary AMD ailments like Juvenile Macular Degeneration. They include Best’s Disease, Stargardt’s Disease, Sorsby’s Disease that effect children and teenagers.
As diabetes can also be inherited s, you are also susceptible to Diabetic Retinopathy. This condition can cause serious vision impairment by affecting the blood vessels at the back of the eyes.
There are a host of symptoms a person can initially have that precede many of these eye diseases. Such symptoms include blurred vision, eye strain, headaches or tiredness, distorted or double vision, pain, redness and decreased colour vision. Other symptoms include spots in your peripheral vision, reduced ability to adjust to light changes, and bumping into objects or spilling something constantly.
The National Eye Institute of the US has recommended some simple steps in maintaining eye health. Also, it is recommended that you visit an ophthalmologist, instead of an optometrist. Both are important but the latter can only measure vision while the former gives you a comprehensive eye health check-up. Here are some of the steps you need to take to ensure your eyes are at optimal health. :
Consult the Right Doctor
Now in this day and age, there are many ‘solutions’ to health conditions. Like with all illnesses, do not fall for procedures like genetic testing. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has guidelines to help people separate truth from hype, such as avoiding direct-to-consumer genetic testing services. See a qualified or accredited eye doctor who can prescribe the latest tests available, and advise on whether the tests benefit you.