Genes and DNA – they are the design instructions for our bodies. Genes determine our base physiological characteristics, passed down through generations: ‘Yeah, my mum had grey hair young too’, someone said. We’ve all said or heard similar phrases.
Our eyes are no different. There are many hereditary eye conditions that unfortunately can be detrimental to our vision. Like other genetic traits, they can skip generations and may or may not show up in our siblings or children.
Some common eye conditions that can be hereditary include strabismus (squint), amblyopia (lazy eye), ptosis (droopy eyelid), myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism, glaucoma, macular degeneration and some types of cataracts.
There are also various other less-common inheritable eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and fuch’s endothelial dystrophy. Therefore it’s important to talk to your family if you can about any history of eye conditions and then have your eyes tested.
Major advances have been made in genetic testing and research in the past several years. So, can we treat every vision-threatening inherited condition? No, unfortunately not. But the more data that is collected, the more genes that are mapped, then the closer we get to understanding abnormalities in our DNA and the closer we are to finding targeted treatments. I am very optimistic about this and look forward to the next decade of advancements.
Talk to your optometrist or medical practitioner about genetic testing. There are a couple of genetic clinics in Brisbane that offer testing, counselling, and management services.
On a lighter note, not all genetic eye traits are bad. You may have luckily inherited sharp vision or pretty-coloured eyes or even attractive long eyelashes! Whatever your eyes look like, get them tested. Protect them. They’re precious little things after all, aren’t they!