Questions to Ask Your Family About Eye Health History

Family laughing around dinner tableEye diseases can be genetic, so talk with your family this holiday season about cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Did you know there are over 350 genetic eye diseases? Family gatherings offer unique opportunities to initiate conversations about eye health and inherited conditions. Your best defense against eye disease is knowing your family health history and scheduling annual comprehensive eye exams with your ophthalmologist.

Gathering data about family eye health will only take a few minutes. Here are ten questions to ask your family members while you’re around the holiday table.

  1. “Does anyone in our family have cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma?” These are three of the most common causes of blindness or low vision.
  2. “Does diabetes run in our family?” Diabetes can cause retinal blood vessels to swell and leak fluid, resulting in blurred vision and possible vision loss. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy.
  3. “Does our family have a history of hypertension?” High blood pressure is linked with blood vessel damage in the retina.
  4. “Has anyone been diagnosed with a congenital eye condition?” Not all eye diseases are age-related, and it is important to know if any family members have experienced vision loss or vision challenges since birth. Genetic eye disease is responsible for more than 60 percent of infant blindness.
  5. “Has anyone had cataract surgery?” Older members of the family may have already had cataracts removed, so ask them how old they were when they had cataract surgery. You may develop cataracts at a similar age.
  6. “Do we have any systemic diseases that run in our family?” A systemic disease is a disease that impacts more than just one organ of the body. One out of three systemic diseases can cause eye problems, and often the eye abnormality is the factor that confirms the diagnosis of the disease.
  7. “Is everyone scheduling routine eye exams with a board-certified physician?” Eye diseases are most treatable when diagnosed in the early stages, so comprehensive eye exams should be part of your family’s annual preventative care regime.
  8. “When is the last time you updated your family health history with your eye doctor?” Detailed, accurate family medical history helps prevent vision loss. Encourage your family members to update their eye health history at their next eye appointment.

Discussing family eye health history is the first step in understanding your risk for hereditary eye disease. Even if eye disease runs in your family, you can preserve your vision through yearly eye exams and a detailed medical file.

Vision Changes? Make an Eye Exam Appointment

Eye disease can also develop independently, so call an ophthalmologist if you notice changes in your vision or you experience eye pain. Click here for a list of qualified eye physicians and surgeons in your local area.

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