On the third Sunday each June, we celebrate Father’s Day to acknowledge Dads and the good things they do. Though the origins of Father’s Day are much different than those of Mother’s Day, the idea is the same: Extending gratitude for the role male parents play in our lives.
While you celebrate Dad, especially if he is over age 50, take a moment to ask about his eye health. This is a good idea both because we want our Dads to continue seeing their best, and because there are multiple eye conditions and diseases you might inherit from your father.
Early detection is critical for successfully treating many eye conditions that could impact your ability (and Dad’s) to see well. Talking about your family’s eye health history is a great place to start.
Following are 5 specific eye conditions that you may inherit from your father:
- Color Blindness. Color blindness is a common inherited eye condition we can get from our fathers. It is caused by a genetic mutation on the X chromosome — and since men have one X and one Y chromosome (while women have two X chromosomes), the gene is more commonly expressed in men. In fact, color blindness affects around 8% of men but only 0.5% of women (1 in 12 men versus 1 in 200 women). For a woman to experience color blindness would mean she inherited a genetic mutation on both of her X chromosomes, which is rare. Men with a genetic mutation on their single X chromosome will be color blind. Women can carry color blindness on one of their two X chromosomes but not experience the condition visually. Curious whether you have color blindness? Take this free online test.
- Nearsightedness (Myopia). If you read our Mother’s Day post, you know that nearsightedness can be inherited from your mom but is even more likely to be inherited from your dad. While nearsightedness is a result of both genetic and environmental factors, eye shape is inherited. A nearsighted eye can focus clearly on objects up-close but not at a distance. Here’s why: In a myopic eye, the eyeball isn’t perfectly round but is instead elongated, which gives the cornea an extremely curved shape. This curve impacts how light is refracted within the eye, causing the focal point of the light to fall short of the retina (which makes far vision blurry). If you’ve inherited myopia, we have good news: With the right prescription and corrective lenses from our optical department, you’ll most likely be able to see 20/20.
- Glaucoma can be inherited from fathers. Unlike color blindness and nearsightedness, glaucoma is a disease that can cause blindness. That’s why it is often known as the Silent Thief of Sight. With glaucoma, the key is early detection. Glaucoma doesn’t hurt, and you may not notice that your visual field is shrinking because the vision loss it causes often starts with peripheral vision. Your optometrist can diagnose glaucoma during your annual comprehensive eye exam. We will test the pressure inside of each eye to determine if it is elevated. High intraocular pressure is how glaucoma damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. Glaucoma runs in families and is more likely to be inherited from fathers than mothers. Once you lose vision to glaucoma, it is gone forever. Don’t let this silent thief sneak up on you, your Dad, or anyone in your family.
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is another very serious eye condition that can be inherited from fathers (and also mothers). To understand AMD, it helps to know that the macula is the central area of the eye’s retina that powers your detailed, central vision – so you can focus on things right in front of you. The macula helps you recognize people’s faces, read, watch television, and perform up-close tasks such as cooking or crafts. When the macula starts to degenerate in age-related macular degeneration, that central area of the retina can no longer function properly, and permanent vision loss occurs. AMD is more likely to be inherited from fathers than mothers. There are treatments to slow AMD progression, but early detection is crucial. Your optometrist will carefully monitor the health of your macula during your annual comprehensive eye exam.
- Genetic Mutations that Increase Risk of Developing Specific Eye Conditions. In addition to these four inherited eye conditions, fathers can also pass down genetic mutations of the X or Y chromosome that make their children more likely to develop certain eye conditions. One is cataracts, a clouding or thickening of the eye’s natural lens that makes vision blurry and dark. Fortunately, cataracts can typically be corrected with cataract surgery.
As you celebrate Dad, it’s a great time to discuss your family’s health history. Though you may have inherited a tendency to develop serious eye conditions, many factors play a role in overall health and eye health, including your environment, diet, and lifestyle. If you are at a higher risk for certain eye conditions, smart choices can help protect your eye health and catch potential issues early. These include regular comprehensive eye exams, healthy lifestyle choices, and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from damaging UV light.
If you’re due for your annual eye exam, call us today to schedule it. If your Dad lives nearby, schedule an exam for him, too! We’ll make sure you’re both seeing your best and double-check that you are doing everything possible to maintain good vision throughout your lives.