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How Your Heritage Affects Your Vision Health

eyes heritage

Where Did You Get Those Baby Blues?: Eye Color and Heritage

The color of your eyes is influenced by the areas of the world in which your ancestors lived. The amount of melanin in your eyes, a pigment that gives your skin its color, also affects eye color. Take a look at the way heritage influences these eye colors.


Brown eyes contain the most melanin and are the most common eye color in the world. They are particularly common in people of Asian, African, Eastern European, and Southern European heritage.


Blue eyes, never a common color, have decreased in recent years, as members of the various ethnic groups are much more likely to have children together. Since blue eyes are a recessive trait, both parents must carry the trait. Blue eyes are more common in people of Irish, English, and Northern European origin.


Green eyes are rare and more likely to occur if your ancestors were from Ireland, Iceland, or Germany. They are also found more often in women.


Have you ever wondered where your gray eyes come from? They are most common in people who ancestors were from Lithuania, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.


This unusual yellow-copper eye color is found in people with South American or Asian heritages.

How Your Heritage Affects Your Vision Health

Your height, weight, and eye color are influenced to some degree by the genes inherited from your ancestors. Unfortunately, you can also inherit an increased risk for developing certain eye conditions and diseases. Learning which diseases are more common based on your ethnicity will help you identify early warning signs that could indicate that you have a vision problem.


Your risk of glaucoma increases with age, but that's not the only factor that can raise your risk. If you are Hispanic, African American, or Asian, you are much more likely to develop glaucoma. The disease damages the optic nerve and can cause loss of vision and blindness if it's not diagnosed and treated promptly. The problem occurs when too much pressure builds inside your eye.

Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma develop suddenly and can include severe pain in the eye, redness, blurred vision, or loss of vision. If you have this form of the disease, it may seem as if a curtain suddenly drops over your field of vision. Low-tension glaucoma, another form of the disease, can occur without any symptoms. Your eye doctor can detect this type of glaucoma with a simple test performed during your annual vision examination.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Macular degeneration damages the cells in the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision. Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than any other group. If you have AMD, you may notice that your vision looks blurry or distorted. It may be difficult to recognize faces or read a clock because you can only see the outline of objects. Although there is no cure for AMD, vitamins, and laser treatment may slow vision loss, in some cases.


Cataracts are associated with aging, but you may be more likely to develop the condition if you are Hispanic or African American. A cataract occurs when proteins inside the lens of your eye clump together. Since the lens is transparent, these clumps prevent light from reaching your retina at the back of your eye. If you have cataracts, you may notice that your vision is blurry or cloudy. You might have trouble seeing at night or see halos around lights. As the cataract grows, it will begin to substantially affect your vision. Cataracts are treated by replacing the lens during a surgical procedure.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Ethnic groups that have a higher risk of developing diabetes, including African Americans and Hispanics, are more likely to also develop diabetic retinopathy, a complication of the disease. The condition occurs when high blood sugar levels cause tiny blood vessels in your retina to leak, distorting your vision. As the problem progresses, new abnormal blood vessels may begin to grow in the retina.

There are often no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, and you may not even know that you have it until your vision has been damaged. Diabetic retinopathy is treated by injections, corticosteroids, and lasers that stop leaking and prevent new blood vessel formation.

If your heritage puts you at increased risk for developing an eye disease, regular eye examinations are a must. Call us today to schedule your exam.

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