You most likely know that your family’s health history is one of the most important risk factors for health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. But did you know that genetics also play a role in numerous eye diseases, including disorders that are the leading cause of blindness among infants, children, and adults? While there are many eye or ocular diseases that are known to be caused by genetics, most of them are rare. Let’s explore the 4 most common eye diseases that you may have an increased risk of developing due to genetics.
Researchers have mapped several genes for glaucoma, which is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve over time. The optic nerve is the cable that connects the eyeball to the brain. An estimated three million Americans have glaucoma and it can affect anyone at any age, but you have an increased risk if you have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 40, and/or have high eye pressure.
Researchers are beginning to identify genes involved in macular degeneration. This relatively common condition for people over the age of 45 causes a loss of central vision, meaning that your vision is blurred when you look directly at an object. This is because it’s a deterioration of the macula, which is the small central portion of the retina responsible for central vision. It’s mostly linked to aging, but also has a genetic predisposition.
Studies are continuing to suggest that genetics play a strong role in the development of Fuch’s Dystrophy, which is a relatively common condition of the cornea. The disorder causes certain cells to die, which leaves dots on the inside of the cornea and causes swelling of the cornea.
High blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels throughout the entire body, including the many blood vessels in your eyes. One of the most common concerns with diabetic eye disease is the retina, which lines the back of your eye and detects light. When the blood vessels in the retina become damaged it can lead to permanent vision loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, genetic factors may account for 25-50% of the risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. However, although diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness in the US, in many cases it’s preventable.
Genetic ophthalmologic researchers are learning more every day about the role genetics play in the most common vision problems among children and adults, including strabismus (cross-eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.
The key to treating any eye disease—genetic or not—is early diagnosis and treatment. An ophthalmologist can detect the onset of glaucoma, macular degeneration, Fuchs’ Dystrophy, Diabetic Retinopathy, and many other eye or ocular disorders. Don’t wait until you start experiencing vision problems to have a comprehensive eye examination.
At Baptist Eye Surgeons, we treat a wide range of eye disorders and are one of the most trusted eye specialists in Tennessee. Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to complex eye surgeries. To request an appointment or get directions to our Knoxville and Morristown locations, visit our website. Call us at 865-579-3920 for more information, or visit us online to schedule an appointment.