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Adult Eye Health and Your Genes

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Genetics in Adult Eye Health

The past few decades have witnessed noticeable advancements in genetic research, which has provided important insights into the genetic foundations of various ocular diseases. Scientists have continuously mapped numerous genes and their variants that impact vision and overall eye health, enabling early diagnosis through genetic testing.

Learning if you’re genetically prone to eye diseases during your adult eye exam can help doctors devise better treatment plans and keep a close eye on your vision. It’s important to remember that your family history matters because eye conditions that run in families can give clues about what to watch out for in your own eyes and your relatives’ too.

The Eye’s Genetic Code

Our eyes are intricate structures shaped by our genetic makeup. Here are some key aspects influenced by our genes:

  • Eye Color: Variations in specific genes determine our eye color. Brown, blue, green, or hazel — your genes hold the palette.
  • Eye Shape and Size: Genetics also play a role in determining the size and shape of your eyes. From almond-shaped to round, it’s all in the genes.
  • Vision Capabilities: Your visual acuity—the ability to see clearly—is partly determined by your genetic code. Some people have sharper vision due to specific gene variants.

Genetic Factors in Common Adult Eye Diseases

Many adult eye conditions, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), have strong genetic components. Unfortunately, genetics can predispose individuals to many different eye diseases. Here are a few examples:


Certain gene variants increase the risk of glaucoma, a condition where pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. Genetic variations like MYOC, OPTN, and CYP1B1 have been associated with the disease. 

Macular Degeneration

Genetic factors contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology, over 40 genetic loci (the fixed location on the chromosome where the gene is located) account for large portions of AMD pathology. These discoveries have influenced genetic testing to identify individuals at higher risk and support early intervention and more personalized treatments. This is especially important during senior eye care initiatives, as regular eye exams for seniors can detect early signs of AMD in these higher-risk individuals.

Retinal Degeneration

Inherited mutations can manifest retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. This group of genetic disorders affects the retina’s ability to respond to light, causing gradual decline in vision and eventually, blindness. Comprehensive eye tests for seniors and adults are vital to identify and manage these genetic conditions early.

What To Expect During Your Adult Eye Exam

At Albemarle Eye Center, we prioritize your vision and overall eye health through comprehensive adult eye exams. While we do not offer genetic testing, our exams are designed to detect early signs of eye conditions, which is especially important if you have a family history of eye diseases.

Thorough Medical and Family History Review

Your exam will begin with a detailed discussion with one of our expert ophthalmologists, Jitendra Swarup, M.D., or Peter V. Mitrev, M.D., about your medical and family history. Knowing about any existing eye conditions in your family helps us understand your potential risk factors and personalizes your care plan.

Visual Acuity Test

This test measures how clearly you can see at various distances using an eye chart. It helps us determine any vision changes since your last exam and identify any need for corrective lenses.

Eye Pressure Test

We measure the pressure inside your eyes to screen for glaucoma. Elevated eye pressure can indicate glaucoma, a serious condition mentioned earlier in this blog that can lead to vision loss if untreated.

Pupil Dilation

To get a better look at the internal structures of your eyes, we may dilate your pupils. This helps us examine the retina, optic nerve, and other key areas to detect early signs of macular degeneration and retinal disorders.

Refraction Assessment

This process determines your lens prescription, ensuring you have the clearest possible vision. It involves switching lenses in front of your eyes and asking which ones make the images clearer.

Eye Structure Examination

Using specialized equipment, we inspect your eye’s exterior and interior for abnormalities. This part of the exam can identify conditions such as cataracts, corneal diseases, and retinal issues.

Adult Eye Structure Examination

Discussion and Next Steps

After your exam, we’ll discuss our findings with you.  If any conditions are detected, we’ll outline your treatment options and recommend managing them. We’ll also emphasize the importance of annual eye exams to catch any changes in your vision or eye health early on.

Genetics is not destiny. Even though some eye conditions may have a genetic link, the most self-preserving step you can take is to have regular eye exams. Annual visits to your eye doctor can help identify and treat any potential issues, protecting your vision and eye health for years to come. Book your appointment with doctors in our Edenton, Elizabeth City, Kinston, Kitty Hawk, and Washington, NC, USA locations today to get started.

**The information offered in this blog is not intended to substitute expert medical advice. Always seek a qualified healthcare professional for any questions or concerns you may have regarding your specific medical condition.**

Written by useye

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