You may have inherited a beautiful eye color from a parent, but could they also be responsible for your subpar vision?
In some instances, yes. But understanding what causes poor eyesight is a little more complex than simply blaming mom and dad.
Poor eyesight isn’t a dominant or recessive trait, but it does tend to run in families. Your parents may have 20/20 vision, but if your grandparents did not, it’s still possible for you to develop vision problems. There are also other conditions and diseases that may be influenced by genetics, but vision problems don’t depend solely on your DNA.
Is Bad Eyesight Inherited?
To some degree, yes, but your family tree is not the only contributing factor.
Studies have shown that if both of your parents are nearsighted, you have a 1 in 3 chance of also being nearsighted. However, if neither of your parents is nearsighted, your chances of developing myopia (the medical term for nearsightedness) is less than 1 in 40.
Your eyesight can be the result of family history to an extent, but physical environmental factors can also play a key role in vision.
Overexposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation can cause numerous eye issues, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and cancer. And in case you needed another reason to stay away from cigarettes, smokers are four times more likely to go blind.
Researchers have also found that pollutants, bacteria, variable humidity, temperature variations, and unsafe cosmetics affect the various parts of the eyes in several ways, leading to disorders like cataracts, conjunctivitis, glaucoma and dry eye.
Are Common Vision Conditions Genetic?
Your lineage may not be to blame in every instance, but genetic markers do play a part in refractive error.
Refractive error occurs when the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in fuzzy eyesight. Ophthalmologic researchers have evidence that vision issues like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision as we age) and astigmatism are genetically determined.
Other developmental disorders like amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) can also be passed down from relatives.
Are Serious Eye Diseases Genetic?
In some cases, yes. A family history of poor eye health can account for more than 350 hereditary eye diseases, such as albinism, glaucoma, keratoconus, retinitis pigmentosa, and retinoblastoma.
Some vision problems won’t be apparent until adulthood. But when it comes to adolescent eye problems, 60 percent of childhood cases involving congenital glaucoma and ocular malfunctions are caused by genetic factors.
A familial link for many other eye diseases may still be unclear, but ongoing research suggests that two of the most serious eye diseases that cause blindness, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, are usually caused by genetics.
Can Genetic Eye Conditions Be Prevented?
You may not be able to hide from your inherited characteristics, but there are still steps you can take to prevent certain eye conditions from worsening.
Paying close attention to your diet, drinking enough water, maintaining healthy hygiene habits and getting adequate rest are great ways to maintain good eye health and avoid some disorders and issues like dry eye and conjunctivitis. Wearing proper sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays can also lower your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and cancer.
If you believe you’re at a higher risk of eye disease due to family history, consult with your eye doctor and be sure to get your eyes checked regularly.