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A lot of what makes a person a person (or arguably ALL of what makes a person a person) can be attributed to one’s DNA. Your genes are how you inherited your widow’s peak, your eye color, your charming smile, and to an extent, your cunning wit. But in many cases, you can also blame genetics for your shortcomings, such as your abominable vision.

Genetic factors can contribute to a variety of vision problems and eye diseases, including those that lead to complete blindness. Over 60 percent of cases of blindness among babies result from inherited eye conditions like congenital cataracts, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy, and eye malformations. Approximately 40% of patients with specific types of strabismus (ocular misalignment) have a history of the disease within their families.

Ophthalmologic researchers have discovered evidence suggesting the most common vision problems among children and adults are genetically determined. The list of afflictions includes strabismus (cross-eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) and refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Color vision deficiency (color blindness) is also usually inherited from an individual’s maternal grandparents. Genetics can also be a factor in inheriting more severe conditions like primary congenital glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration.

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are two of the leading causes of blindness in adults, and both are inherited in a great proportion of these instances. Researchers have identified several of the genes responsible for the development of glaucoma, and are beginning to map genes involved in macular degeneration.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT INHERITED EYE CONDITIONS?

By now, most of you have already taken care of whatever eye problems you’ve been granted by mom and dad. But if you’re planning on having a child or if you’ve just recently had a baby, you should consider getting your child’s eyes examined.

Children born into families with eye problems should have their eyes examined during infancy. As your child begins to grow during his or her first year of infancy, be vigilant of the telltale signs of vision problems. If your child’s eyes don’t move in synchronization or are misaligned, your child may be suffering from strabismus. If your child is displaying jumping or “dancing” eye movements after three months of age, your child may have a condition called nystagmus, which causes repetitive, uncontrollable eye movements. Your pediatrician or family doctor may refer you or your child to an experienced optometrist or ophthalmologist. Amblyopia and strabismus usually show up very early in one’s childhood, and doctors have experienced great success treating them with patches, special eyewear, vision training and/or surgery.

Does your family have a history of eye diseases or medical problems? If so, it’s even more imperative that you get your eyes examined at least once a year. Contact Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

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