Why It is Helpful to Know Your Family’s Eye Health History

Submitted by Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center on May 5, 2022
Eye Care Center Atlanta, GA

Many diseases run in families, and that’s as true of eye conditions as those affecting other parts of the body. A family history of eye disease makes you more vulnerable. The good news is that when you are aware of potential genetic eye problems, you can start early screening to address issues as soon as possible. The surgeons at Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center discuss why knowing your family’s eye health history can help preserve your vision.

Hereditary Eye Conditions

Some of the most common eye diseases have a genetic component. These include:

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of vision loss in those over 60. AMD occurs when the macula, which is part of the retina, begins deteriorating. While AMD does not cause complete blindness, it does blur central vision. Ordinary activities, such as driving, are no longer advisable. 

If one of your parents had AMD, your risk of developing the condition doubles. Two genes in particular, ARMS2 and HTRA1, are associated with AMD. The former is part of the immune system and attacks bacterial invasions. In AMD, this gene may inappropriately target retinal cells. The role of ARMS2/HTRA1 in AMD is not yet completely understood. Genetic testing reveals the presence of these genes, which can affect AMD treatment options.   


Cataracts

As many as 25% of cataracts may have a hereditary basis. While anyone may develop cataracts, those with a family history are much more likely to do so.

Cataracts occur when the lens becomes discolored. This prevents light from entering the pupil. Cataracts are treatable, and prompt diagnosis means earlier treatment.


Glaucoma

If you have a family member with glaucoma, your odds of dealing with this disease rise between four and nine times. Glaucoma injures the optic nerve, generally due to fluid buildup and increased eye pressure.

Primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, is hereditary. Left untreated, glaucoma may lead to blindness. The bad news is that glaucoma often causes no symptoms until serious vision loss has already occurred.


Ask Your Family About Eye Diseases

If you don’t know your family’s eye health history, now is the time to find out. If you have regular family gatherings, bring up the topic of eye disease. It’s in the whole family’s best interests. If you know someone in the family suffered from eye ailments but aren’t sure about the nature of these ailments, ask surviving relatives if they recall the individual’s issues. This information is helpful not only to you but also the next generation.

Schedule Your Eye Exam at Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center 

If you have a family history of eye problems, start regular screenings to detect eye changes as early as possible. Contact Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center today to schedule an appointment.