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Creative Commons License photo credit: ynseGenetic factors play a role in many kinds of eye diseases, including those which are the leading cause of blindness among infants, children and adults. Some of these inherited diseases are commonly known and in some instances, very rare. If you know of family members that have certain eye diseases or disorders, it is important that you learn more about these diseases so that you can be on the lookout for any signs or symptoms.

More than 60 percent of blindness among infants is caused by inherited eye diseases such as congenital (present at birth) cataracts, congenital glaucoma, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy and eye malformations. Many patients who have a family history of certain types of eye diseases like strabismus (ocular misalignment) will eventually develop them, but efforts are currently under way by genetic ophthalmologists to help identify the responsible genes.

Genetic ophthalmologic researchers have established evidence that shows that the most common vision problems among children and adults are genetically determined. The list includes strabismus (cross-eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) and refraction errors such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) and astigmatism. Listed below are some diseases and disorders that every person should keep an eye out for—especially if there is a history in your family.

Many people don’t know that cataracts can be inherited. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s clear lens that prevents light rays from easily reaching the retina. This will cause blurriness and hazy vision. Although cataracts usually develop as part of the aging process, they may also be caused by injury, certain diseases, medications, or genetic inheritance.

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are two of the leading causes of blindness in adults, and both appear to be inherited in a large percentage of cases. Genetic researchers have been successfully mapping several genes for glaucoma and are in the early stages of being able to identify genes connected to macular degeneration. There is also very significant progress in identifying the genes to a degenerative disease of the retina that causes night blindness and gradual vision loss.

If you think you may have a history of one of these eye diseases or have noticed potential signs, make an appointment to see an eye doctor right away.

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