Are Refractive Errors Hereditary?

shutterstock_144913789Anyone recently diagnosed with a refractive error is likely to be curious about the origins of their condition. A common question that comes up in consultation with Dr. Gary Foster is whether refractive errors run in families. The Fort Collins laser vision correction surgeon shares the answer here.

Understanding Refractive Errors

Before considering their origins, it is important to have a basic understanding of refractive errors. These defects in the eye’s structures hamper the eye’s ability to bend or “refract” light — i.e., focus light on the retina. Refractive errors cause objects to look blurry or distorted. Individuals with refractive errors usually need visual aids to see clearly at a specific distance (or at all distances).

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a condition in which close objects appear clear but distant objects are blurry. Either the eyeball is too long, the cornea is too curved, or both.

Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is a condition in which distant objects appear clear and close objects appear blurry. The eyeball is too short or the cornea is not curved enough, or both.

Astigmatism occurs when the cornea (the clear front covering of the eye) has an imperfect curvature or shape. A normal cornea is round and a cornea with astigmatism has an oval shape. Individuals with astigmatism may find that objects at any distance appear blurry.

Family History May Play a Part

Research shows that the eye’s development and ability to properly refract light is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. However, nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism do tend to run in families. If one or both parents have a refractive error, their child is more likely to have one.

Nearsightedness is most often discovered in children between the ages of 8 and 12. The main symptoms are squinting and frowning. It can worsen during the school-age years but tends to stabilize between the ages of 20 and 40.

Farsightedness is often detected in babies and young children. It can cause lack of interest in reading, eye rubbing, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Farsightedness tends to lessen over time as the eye grows larger.

How Dr. Foster Can Treat Refractive Errors

Dr. Foster offers laser vision correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Using advanced lasers, he can quickly and precisely re-shape the cornea to improve the eye’s ability to refract light. Laser vision correction patients typically do not need to wear glasses or contact lenses after surgery.

Laser vision correction is not appropriate for children. Candidates must be at least 18 years old and have a stable vision prescription for at least six months prior to undergoing surgery.

For more information about refractive errors or laser vision correction, please call (970) 419-2693 or email us today and request a consultation with Dr. Foster.

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