Eye Health: Learn Your Family History of Eye Disease

by Tarra W. Millender, M.D.

We get our eye color from our parents, but did you know eye health can be hereditary, too? Over the holidays, take the time to talk to your family members – including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with an eye disease, since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease yourself.

Glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye diseases can be genetic. For example, having a family member with glaucoma makes you four to nine times more likely to be struck with the disease. Glaucoma can cause blindness if left untreated. It’s important to know your family history and share that information with your eye doctor.

Most take vision for granted, with much of our daily lives based on visual stimulation. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t think about actual eye care until something goes wrong. If you do have a family history of eye disease, it’s a good idea to schedule an eye exam. And as you age, it’s especially important to have your eyes checked regularly. If you are 65 or older, you should have your eyes checked every year or two for signs of age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and
glaucoma.

In addition, the following tips can also help maintain good vision:

Wear sunglasses that block UV light. This harmful light is what causes skin cancer around the eyelids and is a major contributor to the development of macular degeneration.

Many who use computers for long stretches of time tend to complain about symptoms like dry eyes, blurry vision and eye strain. Give your eyes a break at regular intervals. Allow the eyes to look away from the screen.

If your grandkids play sports they should wear protective lenses while playing.

Eating a heart-healthy diet? What’s good for the heart is also good for the eyes. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can benefit not only your heart but your eyes. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important in preserving the health of your eyes.

Seeing your eye doctor each year promotes overall health and wellness in addition to correcting vision problems. Having an annual eye exam can help prevent and even detect sight-threatening, and in some cases even life-threatening conditions.

Tarra W. Millinder, M.D. is a glaucoma and cataract specialist. For more information, call Carolina Eye at (910) 295-2100 or toll-free at (800) 733-5357 or visit www.carolinaeye.com.