Which eye issues are hereditary?


A wide variety of eye diseases and issues can be passed on through the genetic material of parents. Eye problems can be the result of many different causes. Sometimes it is a consequence of the natural ageing process, or an injury or trauma to the eye area. Other times it's an infection or complications from other diseases that causes problems, but some eye issues are also hereditary. A wide variety of eye diseases and issues can be passed on through the genetic material of parents. These are just a few of the most common conditions known to have a hereditary link. 


Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve in the eye, the part that sends visual signals from the back of the eye (retina), to the brain for processing. It gets progressively worse over time and is usually inherited. In some cases it will be present from birth but in others, symptoms may not start appearing until later on in life.

If the condition is left untreated, it can cause permanent loss of vision within a few years. Certain factors also increase your risk for glaucoma, such as poor vision, diabetes and some types of steroid medications.

Strabismus and amblyopia

Scientists have also discovered a hereditary link for two conditions that can be fairly common in children: strabismus and amblyopia. Strabismus or crossed eyes occurs when the muscles surrounding each eye don't work together in tandem, which can result in the eyes looking in separate directions. Because of this, the brain will receive competing visual information from each eye and over time it may start to ignore the signals received from the weaker eye. If left untreated, it can progress into amblyopia or lazy eye, where the eye that is ignored by the brain exhibits a much weaker level of vision and does not develop fully. 

Sometimes the order may be reversed where amblyopia (lazy eye) presents first and then causes strabismus (stray eye) to occur. Either way, a family history of the conditions is often identified as a risk factor. The two issues may be present at birth or they might occur later on in life.

Other types of vision conditions such as near- or long-sightedness, astigmatism and colour blindness are also often inherited.


This article was written for Kidspot by Specsavers

Last revised: Tuesday, 13 December 2016

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.