Hereditary Eye Diseases
Do you have family members with eye-related conditions?
The two main eye diseases in adults that have a genetic link are glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Glaucoma is a deterioration of the optic nerve caused by pressure in the eye or poor blood flow to the optic nerve. It has no symptoms at its onset. In most cases if you wait until you begin to realize there is something wrong with your vision to get glaucoma diagnosed, upwards of 70% of your optic nerve will have already been destroyed. Once the nerve is destroyed there is no way of reversing that today and treatment is focused on trying to preserve whatever nerve tissue is left.
Your chances of getting glaucoma are four to 10 times higher if you have a close relative with glaucoma. Getting your eyes examined regularly is always important but even more so if there is a family history of glaucoma.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in most of the developed world. It too can cause serious vision loss if you wait until you have significant symptoms before a diagnosis. There are now some preventative treatments for AMD–the earlier it is detected the better off you will be.
Having a close family member with AMD may increase your chances of having the disease as much as 50 percent, making timely diagnosis and treatment imperative.
Other eye diseases that run in families include strabismus (crossed eyes), myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.
All of these family connections are important to know so that you and your eye doctor can together take the best possible care of your eyes. Before your next eye exam ask your relatives if they have any history of eye disease. It might not make for the lightest of conversation at your next family gathering but it could help save your vision.
Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.
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