Knowing your family history is an important step in keeping your eyes healthy. Like eye color, many eye diseases and conditions have a genetic factor. Just as you would tell your family doctor about your family history of heart disease, you should inform your eye care professional about your family’s eye health history. Knowledge of past and present family eye disorders can help save your vision.

Glaucoma: If you have a family history of glaucoma, you are four to nine times more likely to be affected by the disease. While there is no cure for glaucoma, you can manage its progression and impact on your vision with early detection and treatment. Untreated glaucoma can result in permanent blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy: Type 2 diabetes, one of the fastest growing health conditions in this country, is genetically influenced. While there are a variety of other factors that cause Type 2 diabetes, family history does play a role. You would be surprised how often diabetes is detected through a comprehensive eye exam due to the presence of diabetic retinopathy.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Having a family member with AMD puts you at a 50 percent greater risk of developing the disease yourself. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older in the U.S. Like many other eye diseases, early detection and treatment makes a significant difference in the progression of the disease and a person’s ability to maintain good vision for as long as possible.

Many hereditary eye diseases won’t show symptoms until later on in life. In fact, many eye diseases progress without any warning signs at all. Gradual changes in vision often go unnoticed but can have a devastating impact on your ability to function independently. The earlier that your eye doctor can detect and treat an eye disease, the better your chances are of preserving your precious vision.

Knowing your family health history can actually save your vision. Make sure to share all the details at your next comprehensive eye exam.

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