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Thank Mom and Dad for More Than Just Your Eye Color

When it comes to your eyes, you get more than eye color from your mom and dad. Eye health experts say a host of vision issues, including many that threaten your vision, can be inherited from your parents or grandparents.

Genetic ophthalmologic researchers have linked some of the most common vision problems to genetics. Some of those include crossed eyes, a “lazy” eye and refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

“Poor eyesight definitely runs in families,” says Millie Fell, M.D., a Brooklyn, NY ophthalmologist. “But science has yet to understand the full role of genetics.”

“Some statistics related to nearsightedness say if only one of your parents is nearsighted then you have a 1 out of 5 chance of being nearsighted; if both of your parents are nearsighted than your chance of becoming nearsighted goes up to 1 out of 3 and finally if neither of your parents are nearsighted you have 1 out of 40 chance of inheriting the condition,” says Dr. Fell.

But the need to wear corrective lenses isn’t the only eye issue you might inherit.

Color blindness
Dr. Fell says color blindness is also typically inherited.

“The gene affecting color vision is carried on the X-chromosome which is why it affects more men than women,” she says. “Women are usually carriers.”

About 5 percent of the people in the world are colorblind. The condition remains stable, so it doesn’t worsen with age. But it can be a nuisance.

Glaucoma
“There’s definitely a hereditary component related to glaucoma,” says optometrist, Joseph Sowka, O.D., Professor of Optometry and Chief of the Advanced Care Center at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry.

And the risk is proportionate to the closeness of the relative.

“A sibling or parent with the disease ups your chance of having it more than an aunt or grandparent with glaucoma,” says Dr. Sowka.

However, there’s still a risk of developing the disease even if you don’t have a family history of glaucoma.

“It has to start somewhere in a family lineage,” says Dr. Sowka.

There is no direct way to protect against glaucoma, however Dr. Sowka says good nutrition and exercise can reduce the risk.

“Strict control of diabetes and hypertension is also helpful,” he adds. “Those with a family history of glaucoma need to have an annual eye exam and should make their eye care provider aware of the family history so he or she can pay particular attention to those aspects of the exam that are most significant for diagnosing glaucoma.”

Retinitis pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is a hereditary eye disease reduces or lessens your night and peripheral vision by damaging the peripheral region of the retina. The disease is thought to be relatively uncommon, affecting about 1 in 4,000 people in the United States, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Your best bet to maintain healthy vision is a comprehensive eye exam from your Optometrist.