What to watch for in your family’s eye health history

What to watch for in your family’s eye health history 13 Mar, 2017

Most people recognize the importance of knowing their family medical history. But, do you know that you should also be aware of your family’s eye health history?


There are some eye ailments that you are more likely to suffer from if you have had a family member with the condition. Awareness of these conditions in your family is vital because in most cases, early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down the effects.
These conditions include glaucoma, macular degeneration and myopia. Here’s a little about each and what to look out for:


Put simply, if you think of the eye like a camera, glaucoma is where the power cord to your camera (your optic nerve) starts to degenerate due to pressure within the eye. Glaucoma develops very slowly initially and unfortunately there are usually no symptoms. That means glaucoma can “steal” your sight gradually without you even being aware that there is a problem. This is why it is so important to have regular eye examinations at least every two years – even if you feel your eyes are fine, and especially if you have a family history of glaucoma. Did you know that:

  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
  • 1 in 10 Australians over 80 will develop glaucoma.
  • First degree relatives of glaucoma patients have an 8-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
  • At present, 50% of people with glaucoma in Australia are undiagnosed.


Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a progressive disease which causes damage to the macula. The result is a loss of central vision, while peripheral vision is left unaffected – so thinking again about the eye as a a camera, the macula represents the central part of your camera film.


Though we are all at risk of macular degeneration there is a 50% risk if a direct family history is present, and three to four times the risk if you smoke. Symptoms may include difficulty with reading or any other activity that requires fine vision, distortion (where straight lines appear wavy or bent), distinguishing faces can become a problem and dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision. Early detection is critical, especially now that there are proven prevention strategies your optometrist can commence even before symptoms become noticeable. Detection can be as simple as having regular eye tests with your EyeQ Optometrist and checking your vision once a week with an Amsler grid which we can provide for you.


Myopia (Shortsightedness)
Myopia is a condition in which a person can see clearly up close, but cannot see clearly at a distance. It often results in the person squinting to see objects far away. Myopia can be caused by the way people use their eyes, but can also be genetic.


There are different ways a person can address myopia naturally. One is by resting your eyes. Many people who suffer from myopia sit in front of a computer several hours a day or they spend hours poring over fine print. You need to break up that close work with frequent eye resting periods. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes and scan the room for about 20 seconds to rest your eyes.


Recent ground-breaking research by Australian optometrists has indicated that increasing exposure to outdoor light may be the key to reducing the myopia epidemic in children. Myopia (or short-sightedness) has been on the increase over recent years, and advice to parents now is that children need to spend preferably at least two hours a day outside to help prevent it from developing and progressing. Regardless of lifestyle, if you are a sufferer of myopia it’s important your children or grandchildren have a regular eye test as leaving myopia untreated or under-treated can increase rate of progression, and we can’t trust kids to recognise the symptoms because they think the way they see is ‘normal’.


As much as we like to think we are each our own person, to some extent you can’t beat your genes! Family history gives us clues to the future, and this knowledge helps your local EyeQ Optometrist ensure you enjoy a lifetime of good vision. For a comprehensive assessment, book an appointment with your local optometrist today.

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