Many eye and vision problems are genetic, meaning we inherit them from our parents and grandparents. There’s nothing you can do about that, but there are steps you can take to screen for certain issues and lessen the severity. Taking a proactive approach is key.
Genetic factors play a role in a variety of eye diseases, including those that are the top cause of blindness among babies, children and adults. More than 60 percent of blindness cases in babies are attributed to inherited eye diseases, such as:
• Congenital cataracts
• Retinal degeneration
• Optic atrophy
• Congenital glaucoma
• Eye malformations
Up to 40 percent of patients with certain types of strabismus have a family history, with ongoing research looking to pinpoint the genes responsible.
In adults, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma are both top causes of blindness, and both can be inherited traits. Researchers are in the process of identifying the genes that cause retinitis pigmentosa, which is a degenerative disease of the retina causing night blindness and gradual vision loss.
Common vision problems among kids and adults that may be genetically determined include:
• Strabismus (cross eyes)
• Amblyopia (lazy eyes)
• Refraction errors such as nearsightedness (also known as myopia), farsightedness (also known as hyperopia) and astigmatism.
Eye abnormalities can be found in about a third of inherited, systemic diseases, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The presence of certain signs in the eyes can confirm or deny a diagnosis. For example, cherry red spots found in the eye can be a flag for Tay-Sachs disease; a dislocated lens can signal Marfan syndrome, which is a disease of the connective tissue linked to heart problems.
Early diagnosis and treatment are both key in addressing genetic eye problems. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist who can perform further evaluation, testing and diagnosis if there is any suspicion of a genetic eye disease. This specialist can work with you to diagnose the problem and develop a plan going forward. An exam will be necessary and you’ll have to provide a complete family medical history, particularly as it pertains to symptoms of genetic disorders.
Using information gleaned from the eye examination and medical history information, your eye doctor, any specialists, and the referring physician can determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Contact Simon Eye Associates
To get screened for genetic vision problems or to schedule your annual eye exam, contact us at 302-239-1933. Our doctors are highly trained in diagnosing and treating eye diseases and conditions.