Are Nearsightedness, Farsightedness and Astigmatism Hereditary?
Many people have some degree of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. These conditions sometimes occur in combination and may require corrective lenses to restore clear vision. Although the exact cause isn’t completely clear, research suggests that there may be a genetic component to these abnormalities in vision.
Also called myopia, nearsightedness is a condition in which the eye is too long or the cornea has too much of a curve. This results in objects appearing clear up close but blurry far away. About 30 percent of the U.S. population has some level of myopia, including many school-aged children. Myopia in children and adolescents tends to get worse as time goes on.
Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is the opposite of myopia. It occurs when the cornea has less of a curve than it should or when the eyeball is too short. People with this condition have difficulty seeing objects up close but no problem seeing far away. About half of all those who wear glasses use them to correct hyperopia. Presbyopia, another form of the condition, commonly develops in individuals over the age of 40, which is why many adults find they need reading glasses as they age.
When the cornea has an irregular shape, it’s known as astigmatism. Instead of being symmetrical, the curve of the lens is greater on one side than the other. Astigmatism is often found in conjunction with either myopia or hyperopia. As with other vision problems, the degree of the condition may get better or worse over time. Astigmatism can cause objects to look blurry far away or close up, and the condition may be present from birth.
The Genetic Link
Research seems to show a link between genetics and increased risk for myopia. One study determined that the chances of developing the condition are 1 in 3 if both parents have it, 1 in 5 if one parent has it and 1 in 40 if neither parent has it. However, it can be difficult to separate environmental factors from these results. Reading close up, watching TV, playing video games and spending time using electronic devices can all play a role in the development of abnormal vision.
Studies done on twins in an attempt to adjust for environmental influences show that a high percentage of near and farsightedness may be attributed to genetics. The fact that multiple genes may be at play makes the matter more complicated. Genetics can influence the overall shape of the eye as it develops or make the eye more susceptible to the effects of lifestyle habits. Since astigmatism appears at the beginning of life, it’s more likely that this condition is genetic in nature.
Whether or not you can blame your vision problems on genes, it’s important to make every effort to maintain good eye health. Visit your ophthalmologist for regular checkups, noting any changes that occur in your eyesight. Discuss the best long-term solutions so that you can enjoy clear vision throughout your life.
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