May is National Family Month and so we at EyeCare 20/20 wanted to talk about family. We love our families and the time we spend with our family members—but there are things we inherit from them. Some of these traits are positive things—like a mother’s smile or a father’s sense of humor. Other things however, are less positive. There are several common eye problems that are hereditary. We are going to review these vision health problems now.
Many people don’t realize this but a good amount of the population is color blind. Color blindness is passed down through the X chromosome, rather than the Y chromosome. Because of this, it is more common for men to be color blind than women. Typically red/green and blue color blindness is the most common kind of color blindness that is passed down through the parents. Many schools test children for color blindness but you also receive an examination at your primary care physician’s office or eye doctor.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which intraocular pressure is so high that the optic nerve becomes damaged. This damage leads to loss of vision and at times, even blindness. It’s estimated that millions of Americans suffer from Open-Angle Glaucoma (the most common type)—while many of them don’t even realize it. Although there are no symptoms to clue someone in to needing to be tested for Glaucoma, a family history increases the risk of getting it from anywhere from 4 to 9 times as much as someone without a family history. Therefore, ask your relatives if anyone has suffered from Glaucoma and if so, have your eye doctor check in your next eye appointment.
Macular Dystrophy is another eye disease that can result, and often does, in the loss of vision. It affects the eye’s retina—in particular, a small area nearby the retina called the macula. When someone suffers from Macular Dystrophy has a build up of a substance called lipofuscin, which is a fatty yellow pigment, underneath the macula. Since the macula is responsible for sharp central vision, the build up of this pigment causes loss of vision over time. Although not everyone who suffers from Macular Dystrophy can connect the disease to a relative, it is a genetic disease, typically passed on from one parent. If one or both of your parents have started experiencing a decline in their vision and suspect it may be macular dystrophy, please ask you eye doctor to test you as well.
Hyperopia and Myopia
These terms aren’t as foreign to you as they sound. Myopia is also known as “nearsightedness,” meaning that objects look clearer when they are closer. Hyperopia on the other hand, is “farsightedness,” when objects that are farther away are clearer. Both Hyperopia and Myopia are inherited. They can be treated with either glasses or contact lenses and sometimes, depending on the doctor, by laser eye surgery as well.
Search the Branches of Your Family Tree
Although it’s not a fun conversation to have over the dinner table, asking your family members about common diseases that other members have suffered from is important. Ask your parents and grandparents about their eye conditions and if they have any eye health issues. Were any on this list? Even if not, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to schedule a consultation with Dr. Silverman today.
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