We tend to attribute nearly every aspect of our being to genetics. Hair, complexion, eye color, general disposition, and even components of our health can be linked directly back to mom and dad. We do this so often in fact, that it can be difficult to determine the exact difference between nature and nurture. Which carries more weight, and which elements of our health are completely uninfluenced by genetics? We encounter this question a lot from inquisitive patients who wonder if their own poor eyesight will be passed along to their children or if theirs came from their own parents. And it can be a difficult one to answer.
Nearsightedness and Genetics
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is the most common eye condition, affecting 1 in 4 of those living in North America. Research has been conducted across numerous studies in an effort to determine how heavily this prevalence is impacted by genetics, and the results seem to indicate what most already suspected. The likelihood of developing myopia increasing significantly in children whose parents also have the condition. For those without a nearsighted parent, the odds of developing the condition are about 1 in 40. If you have one parent with myopia, the risk increases significantly to 1 in 5, and for those who have two nearsighted parents, the odds are 1 in 3.
Naturally, the assumption from these numbers would be that of course poor eyesight is hereditary. However, researchers must be far more conclusive and rule out other possibilities. After these findings, other questions arose. Is it the lifestyle of these families and habits such as more frequent reading, TV watching, or time spent outdoors influencing the development of myopia? To provide a more thorough conclusion, the researchers turned to twins. Unsurprisingly, the findings in this second study bolstered the first, suggesting a 90 percent correlation between genes and poor eyesight.
Other Factors Influencing Eyesight
Of course, genetic predisposition is just a piece of the puzzle. There are several other factors that have been found to affect vision. Many of these have to do with the amount of time children now spend indoors, reading, watching TV or playing video games. Time spent outdoors has recently been linked to stronger eyesight. A recent study of 1,900 children in China found that those who spent more time outdoors had a 23 percent lower risk of developing nearsightedness. Additionally, it is believed by some that a diet strong in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D can help prevent myopia.
All indicators point to a strong hereditary link in those with poor eyesight. The bottom line is that if one or both of your parents were nearsighted, there is a likelihood that you will be as well. Likewise, if you are nearsighted, your children are predisposed. However, that is not to mean that there is nothing you can do. Knowing that the chances are higher, make sure your children get plenty of play time outdoors and eat an appropriate diet. Keep your family up-to-date on their eye exams as well, and while myopia may still occur, you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to minimize its impact.
Ophthalmologists Dr. David M. Dragon, M.D., Dr. Tim D. Johnson, M.D., and Dr. Thomas C. Stuckey III, M.D., serving Baton Rouge, Baker, Zachary, Prairieville, Denham Springs, Port Allen, Gonzales, Clinton, Walker, Plaquemine, Donaldsonville and the surrounding area.