There are some things we’re almost sure to inherit from our parents. Things like eye color, hair color, height, etc. And if they have vision problems, that’s not a good thing. But, there is some good news for those with parents with poor eyesight, you may not inherit their bad eyesight.
This isn’t to say that you won’t have bad eyesight because your parents do. The truth is, poor vision is strongly linked to habits and certain environments rather than genetics. Of course, it’s always easy to blame genetics for our shortcomings.
This myth of poor eyesight running in families is further perpetuated on television and movies, when we see a comical family of glasses wearers, who get into shenanigans because of their poor vision.
Unfortunately, many are convinced that this is how genetics work. It’s not. It’s just a silly trope that needs some correcting. Just because your parents have bad eyesight, doesn’t mean you will too.
The Genetic Component: Flawed Studies
To dismiss genetics completely would not make sense. Genetics of course play a role in a child’s development, especially the eyes. But don’t think genetics are the sole deciders in the matter. Some eye diseases are genetic, but in this case poor vision does not mean disease.
Studies, carried out by various sources, have concluded that poor eyesight runs in families. The end. Case and point.
However, upon closer inspection, one major flaw emerged. No one carrying out these studies thought to check if the parents and children in these studies shared similar vision impairments because of a genetic trait; or because of the environment the child grew up in.
While newer studies to get to the bottom of the question: “genetics or environment?” have not been published yet, we found some facts that may prove that environment is truly the deciding factor.
Environment over Genetics
Genetics is the key ingredient in forming our DNA. We inherit certain genes from our parents that essentially make up our physical body. Though our eyes are part of our physical body, they develop differently.
Children are often times born with perfect 20/20 vision. As they and their eyes grow, problems occur; astigmatism, lazy eye, nearsightedness, farsightedness, etc. Some vision conditions are the result of development issues, like astigmatism, where the lens of the eye is not the correct size and curvature.
Studies have shown that the more children read and write, the more likely they are to develop nearsightedness and farsightedness, regardless of if their parents have the conditions as well.
For example, according to the BBC’s science reporter, Matt McGrath, there has been a rise of children suffering from myopia (nearsightedness) in Asian countries. In certain Asian countries, children are taught to study rigorously.
As a result, their eyes are not being exposed to enough natural light and have become accustomed to focusing on textbooks and various other study materials, at a range that is close to the eye.
A similar study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that law students are at a higher risk of developing myopia. Of course, this is due to the fact that law students notoriously spend hours upon hours holed up in a dark library with their noses in their textbooks.
Australia is the country with the lowest amount of children with myopia because they often encourage children to get out of their classrooms and homes to spend some much needed time outdoors.
In these instances it becomes clear that myopia is something that is often self-inflicted. The same can be said about farsightedness when people spend too much time trying to focus on object in the distance. However this is much less common among children.
A studious child does not automatically mean myopia, but it does increase their chances of developing it. Another way children are developing farsightedness and myopia is by spending too many consecutive hours watching television and playing video games. This is another product of the child’s environment and not genetics.
Though genetics may play a role in how a child’s eyes may develop, environment certainly is the deciding factor. Better and more diverse environments for children can improve their eyes.
In fact, a more varied environment will save you and your little one a lot of heartache come time to visit the eye doctor. You have control over whether or not your child will succumb to hazardous environments for the eyes, or will they develop healthy and stable eyes.
How to Improve Your Child’s Environment
There are endless ways for you to prevent your child from falling victim to their respective environments. These tips are easy and won’t require a lifestyle overhaul. In time, your child is sure to be grateful.
The first thing you can do is take your child to the eye doctor. Make sure that you’re starting with a clean slate. If you’re child doesn’t have any vision conditions, you can proceed to take preventative measures.
However, if your child has or seems to be developing vision impairment, your doctor can help guide you through the process to correct their vision before the impairment sets in permanently.
Once you’ve got the OK from the eye doctor, you can go ahead and start preventing these vision conditions. First thing you want to do is to get your child outdoors. Exposing their eyes to natural light is great for the eye’s development and will let their eyes defocus and relax after hours of being in school.
The best time to have this outdoor playtime is right after school. Before they settle down in front of the television or at a desk to do homework, have them spend an hour or two outside. Throw a ball around with them for some awesome bonding time!
One other thing you can do is consider vision therapy for your children. Vision therapy works on children with and without existing vision conditions. Studies have shown that children who go to vision therapy sessions are more focused in school and other activities. Vision therapy also decreases their chances of developing a vision condition.
So, before stressing out about your children inheriting your terrible vision remember that a lot of conditions that develop in childhood are due to environment. Make sure your child grows up in an environment that is varied and eye friendly.