Is bad eyesight genetic? Do you inherit your eyesight problems?
25 August 2021
Can bad eyesight run in the family?
Many of our characteristics – our hair, skin, and eye colour – are passed down to us from our parents. Our parents can also pass down certain illnesses and diseases through our genes, and this can include our eyesight. Eyesight can be heavily influenced by genetics, while there are also environmental factors that can determine how good our eyesight will be. We may not be able to challenge our genetic predispositions, but we can follow a healthier lifestyle to ensure we prevent certain eye diseases as much as possible.
A recent study has shown that you have a 1 in 3 chance of developing myopia (short-sightedness) if both your parents are myopic too. If only one of your parents is myopic, this figure decreases to a 1 in 5 chance. If neither of your parents is myopic, however, you have less than a 1 in 40 chance. It’s clear that our genes influence our eyesight, even if our environment and lifestyle can play a role in our eyesight too.
What causes bad eyesight?
Bad eyesight can be caused by a variety of different eye conditions and diseases, and most of these tend to be hereditary. Poor, blurry vision is usually caused by a refractive error such as myopia, hyperopia (long-sightedness), or astigmatism. Refractive errors occur when the eye cannot focus light directly on the retina.
As well as the eye conditions mentioned above, there are also certain eye diseases that are hereditary and can, unfortunately, worsen your eyesight. Some of these diseases include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Macular degeneration is a disease that can gradually decrease visual acuity over time. AMD affects the macula in our eye, which is the central part of the retina that preserves our sharpest vision. The macula determines how well we can recognise faces, read, drive, and carry out other detailed visual tasks. The American Optometric Association (AOA) found that having a history of AMD in your family increases your risk of developing the disease from the age of 40.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is an eye disease that is linked to the pressure within the eye. When fluid inside the eye begins to build up and doesn’t drain as it should, the pressure inside the eye increases, and in turn, this can damage the optic nerve. A lack of blood flow to the optic nerve can also lead to glaucoma. It can be quite a dangerous disease, as there are virtually no symptoms of it until considerable damage has been done to your vision. Having a hereditary predisposition to the disease, or a family history of it, can unfortunately significantly increase your chances of developing high eye pressure and glaucoma.
- Retinitis pigmentosa (RP): Retinitis pigmentosa is a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, and this can eventually lead to vision loss. The first symptoms of RP are tunnel vision and night blindness, and gradually the disease leads to the loss of central vision too. According to research, the condition is caused by a gene mutation that can be inherited through an X chromosome. If both parents are carriers of the RP gene, their child has a 25% chance of being affected. Even if their child is not affected by the disease themselves, they still have a 50% chance of being a carrier of the gene. Approximately 1 in every 3,500 people suffer from the disease, with many more who are carriers of the mutated gene.
Environmental Factors that can affect your eyesight
While your eyesight can be influenced by your genes, environmental factors can also determine how well you can see. Overexposure to the UV rays from the sun can also lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer, which you can read more about in our blog here. Smoking can also damage your eyesight and eye health – you’re four times more likely to go blind if you smoke in comparison to non-smokers.
How can I maintain my eye health and vision?
Unfortunately, we can’t control our genetics and how they affect us, but what we can do is take good care of our health to prevent these eye conditions and diseases from developing. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting a good night’s sleep can help preserve your vision and eye health. A diet rich in orange fruit and vegetables (such as carrots) and fish can help prevent certain eye diseases, and staying hydrated can decrease your chances of experiencing dry eye.
If you’re concerned about having a history of eye diseases running in your family, please consult an eye doctor to gain a better understanding of your individual risk of developing these diseases. To find out more on how to keep your eyes healthy, keep checking our blog for new content about vision and eye health. Getting a regular eye test once every two years will also help you discover any changes to your vision, and pick up on any potential conditions that may develop. At Ultralase, our free consultations include a full eye test with one of our optometrists to establish how suitable you are for treatment with us, and this will also give you more insight into your eye health and vision. Take a look at our website and get in touch with us for more information.
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