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Family genetics has a big impact on eye and vision health. People of all ages are affected by inherited eye conditions. (Learn More) This includes common refractive vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, as well as eye diseases like glaucoma and retinal degeneration. (Learn More)
Scientists have identified over 350 hereditary eye diseases and hundreds of individual genes that are responsible for causing them. (Learn More) Research continues to identify genes that cause eye disease and can inform effective treatments. (Learn More)
A family history of eye disease does not predetermine you for a life of vision problems. Early detection and treatment of eye conditions can greatly reduce the impact of inherited eye and vision problems. (Learn More)
Understanding your family medical history is beneficial for many health factors, including protecting your vision. Advancements in science are making it easier to identify inherited disorders and treat them early to prevent unnecessary vision loss. (Learn More)
Genetics & Your Eyes
Researchers have successfully identified a range of eye and vision problems caused by inherited eye diseases and conditions. Family history of eye disease plays a significant role in the occurrence of vision problems in infants, children, and adults.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than 60 percent of infants with blindness suffer from an inherited eye disease. Likewise, up to 40 percent of individuals with ocular misalignment present with a family history of the disease. Two of the leading causes of blindness, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, are also commonly linked to an inherited family history of the conditions.
Commonly Inherited Eye Problems
Both eye diseases and vision problems in healthy eyes can be inherited. Researchers have identified many genes linked to inherited vision conditions and continue to discover more.
These inherited eye diseases frequently lead to blindness:
- Congenital (present at birth) cataracts
- Congenital glaucoma
- Retinal degeneration
- Optic atrophy
- Eye malformations
- Some forms of strabismus (ocular misalignment/crossed eyes)
- Age-related macular degeneration
Vision problems that are not diseases can also be passed down from generation to generation. These are commonly inherited vision problems in otherwise strong eyes:
- Crossed eyes (strabismus)
- Lazy eye (amblyopia)
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
- Color blindness
In addition to the above inherited eye diseases and vision problems, eye abnormalities occur in a third of hereditary, systemic diseases, such as Marfan syndrome or Tay-Sachs disease.
What the Research Shows
Scientists have identified more than 350 hereditary eye diseases. Each of these conditions is passed via genes from one generation to the next. Genes linked to certain eye disease may lie dormant from one generation to the next. They may also only affect certain offspring, meaning one sibling may be affected by the eye condition while another sibling is not.
In the case of inherited retinal disease (IRD), which can lead to severe vision loss and blindness, at least one gene in an individual’s DNA is not functioning properly. Over 260 genes have already been identified to cause IRD.
People of all ages can be affected by IRD and at different rates. Many IRDs are degenerative, meaning they get worse over time, and all require appropriate medical treatment.
The genetic variations that cause hereditary eye diseases can be inherited from the mother, father, or both parents. Likewise, it is possible for the genetic variance to occur spontaneously. Understanding the type of inheritance informs doctors about the specific genetic disease being dealt with, as well as what the best treatment options are.
Identifying Genes That Cause Eye Disease
A 2018 large-scale study on mice identified hundreds of genes required for eye development, greatly increasing the number of genes known to cause eye disease. While the study was done on mice, the data collected by the study is highly valuable for people with hereditary eye disease.
Most human genes have a like counterpart in mice, explain authors of the study. Prior to the above study, 261 of the identified genes were not known to cause eye disease in any species.
If someone has a hereditary eye disease, they can now be screened for all of these newly identified genes to help pinpoint the cause of their eye condition. Correctly identifying the cause is significant for developing effective treatment.
How to Prevent Issues You Are Genetically Predisposed To
Over the past 25 years or so, significant scientific gains have been made in the area of understanding genetic eye disease. Scientists now know the influence that many specific genes can have on individuals’ vision and eye health. These findings highlight the importance of understanding family medical history for the prevention of eye and vision problems.
Via diagnostic tools, such as genetic testing and comprehensive eye exams of individuals who are predisposed to eye disease, early diagnoses and effective treatment plans can be made. This is the best way to prevent unnecessary vision loss.
With early detection of inherited eye disorders, the issues can often be treated effectively. Complications caused by such disorders can also be greatly reduced or eliminated.
During the consultation, we will ask you about your eye health history and your medications, and perform some tests. You will then be examined by the surgeon who will discuss your treatment options. Your personal Patient Counselor will help you throughout the process.
Your Counselor can review payment options and schedule you for surgery and related appointments, such as pre- and post-operative exams. Prior to your procedure you will have a dilated eye exam, and you should discontinue wearing your contact lenses and begin taking eye drops as instructed.
Plan to be at the center for two to three hours the day of your procedure. ICL eye surgery is a fairly brief outpatient procedure. Your surgeon dilates your eyes, and gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area. A tiny incision is made, and the clear lens is slipped between your iris and your eye’s natural lens. The day of your procedure should be a day of rest.
Your Patient Counselor will give you detailed post-operative instructions and eye drop regimen for your recovery. After ICL surgery, you’ll need several follow-ups with your eye doctor. Visual recovery is rapid, and you can expect noticeable improvement within a day or two. Most patients are generally able to return to their normal activities within two or three days following their procedure.
Understanding Your Family Medical History
A solid understanding of your family’s medical history can provide insight into many health factors in your life, including your vision. Scientists have proven that eye problems can be inherited, and they continue to work on identifying which specific genes cause eye and vision problems.
If you have a family medical history of hereditary vision problems, early screening to detect any eye conditions is essential. Individuals who are predisposed to vision problems should seek out these regular screenings to avoid unnecessary vision and eye complications.
Eye Disease: Inherited & Genetic. Cleveland Clinic.
Eye Diseases & Conditions: Inherited Retinal Disease. Prevent Blindness.
Genes and Genetics in Eye Diseases: A Genomic Medicine Approach for Investigating Hereditary and Inflammatory Ocular Disorders. (January 2018). International Journal of Ophthalmology.
Hereditary Ocular Disease. Research to Prevent Blindness.
Identification of Genes Required for Eye Development by High-Throughput Screening of Mouse Knockouts. (December 2018). Communications Biology.