How Your Family History May Affect Your Vision Health

Family posing in the park including grandparents, a mom and two children.

The traits you get from your family, like eye color, height and weight, are all influenced by your genes. These traits could mean a higher chance of having different kinds of vision problems passed down from your family. It’s important to be aware of these risks and to talk about them with your eye doctor at your annual eye exam. Finding vision and health problems early is key to treating them effectively.


If you are African American or Hispanic, or if you are an adult over the age of 65, you may be at risk for cataracts. A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye that makes things look blurry or hazy. It’s kind of like trying to see through a foggy window. While a common condition associated with aging, cataracts are the main reason for vision loss and blindness in African Americans. Additionally, Hispanics are more likely to develop cataracts than the general population. About 50% of Hispanics develop cataracts by the time they reach 70 years old.


Glaucoma happens when there is too much pressure inside your eye. Over time the pressure can damage the optic nerve. Unfortunately, you can’t stop glaucoma from happening, but if it’s found early and treated, you can slow down or limit how much it affects your vision. Glaucoma is about 5 times more common in African Americans. 8 out 10 Hispanics with glaucoma don’t even know they have it.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is when the part of your eye that helps you see things straight ahead (called the macula) gets damaged as you get older. It can make things look blurry or distorted. In some cases, AMD can cause a dark spot in the center of your vision making it hard to read or drive. AMD is more prevalent in non-Hispanic Caucasians in the United States than in African Americans.

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

Even though you can’t change the traits you get from your family, living a healthy lifestyle can help keep your eyes healthy and improve your overall wellness. You can protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses and from the water by wearing goggles. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit and stay active to keep your eyes healthy. It’s also a good idea to see your eye doctor every year to catch and take care of any vision or health issues early on. 

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