A variety of eye conditions are hereditary, which means they can be passed on to you through the genetic material of your parents.

Which eye conditions are hereditary and how serious are they?

Two of the most common sight-threatening eye conditions in Australia and New Zealand are hereditary.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness. It affects central vision, which is what you use to read, drive, recognise faces and perform activities that require detailed vision. In early stages, macular degeneration also has no warning signs, so the only way it can be diagnosed and treated, is if early signs are detected in a routine eye test.

Glaucoma is often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it has no symptoms but can cause damage to the optic nerve, often resulting in the gradual, permanent loss of peripheral vision.

What should I do to protect my sight from hereditary eye conditions?

Here are 5 simple ways to look after your eyes:

  1. Ask your family about their medical history. If your parents or grandparents have/had an eye condition like macular degeneration or glaucoma, it is more likely that you will develop the same eye conditions.
  2. Regardless of your family history or the quality of your vision, it’s very important to have an eye health check at least once every two years as many sight-threatening eye conditions don’t have obvious warning signs. A regular eye check only takes around 30 minutes but could be critical in protecting your vision.
  3. Check your age – if you’re over 40, you have a 50% chance of developing an eye condition so ensure you have routine eye health checks booked from at least 35 years old onwards.
  4. Life a healthy life. Smoking, which is the most controllable risk factor for macular degeneration, causes free radical cellular damage to the eye while decreasing antioxidant levels. Smokers are three times more likely to develop the condition than non-smokers. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet and regular exercise will also give your eyes the nutrition they need.
  5. Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from direct sunlight and UV rays by wearing sunglasses with polarised lenses.

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