You might be surprised to hear that more than 350 retinal and eye conditions can be attributed to genetics. What’s also surprising is that in many cases, relatives might not even be aware that these hereditary conditions exist within their family. For many, it’s common to pass off retinal disease or degeneration as something that “just happens”, without recognizing familial patterns.

It’s also quite common for people to want to keep their eye health private, without considering the potential risk to others. While the risks might not ever materialize into anything to worry about, it’s still advised to be as open and honest as possible with your family about eye-related conditions.

Scheduling regular appointments with an eye doctor is a good idea for everyone, but for those with an elevated risk of developing certain diseases, it’s even more critical. If you’ve already established that eye or retinal disease is prevalent in your family, the good news is, now is the best time to act!

Wondering why? Our expert eye doctors are here to keep you in the loop.

First up, what conditions are generally associated with genetics?

Several genetic eye conditions are associated with an accelerated or more severe degradation of the retina. This can sound frightening at first, but remember, it’s always better to know than to not know! With the right care and treatment from a retina specialist, there are excellent treatment options available for the majority of sufferers.

In terms of what specific conditions you should look out for within your family, there are several eye conditions that have been linked to genetics. However, the most common ones that we’ve observed at our eye clinic in Sarasota, FL include:

Retinal detachment

As we age, our retina naturally thins. However, due to genetics, some people can be born with a thinner retina than usual. If you start out with a thin retina, you are at higher risk of developing retinal detachment due to the more delicate nature of your retina.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

If you have a family history of macular degeneration, you are at an increased risk of developing AMD. This is mostly due to genetics impacting the speed at which your retina deteriorates.


Hereditary cataracts are estimated to account for between 8.3% and 25% of congenital cataracts. While most cataracts occur with age, congenital cataracts can also be associated with a birth defect.


While everyone is at risk of developing glaucoma, a family history of the disease increases your chances of developing it four to nine times. For those who know that the condition exists within their family, it’s advised that you are extra vigilant.

Note: A family history of retina or eye disease can also be indirectly connected to pre-existing conditions tied to genetics. For example, type 2 diabetes can be associated with family history. This will in turn put you at higher risk of eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

So, now that you know a little more about hereditary eye disease, why exactly is seeing an ophthalmologist so important?

Seeing an ophthalmologist will immediately ease your concerns

Firstly, it’s vital to point out that just because hereditary retina disease exists within your family, it doesn’t automatically mean that you or other members are certain to develop the same condition. Still, it’s important to accept that you are indeed at higher risk.

As your ophthalmologist will tell you, the most important outcome of discovering a family history of eye disease is your ability to act on this information. As retina specialists, we see patients coming to us every day who wish they’d been given some warning about the retinal conditions they’re experiencing.

So, even though a family history of complicated eye health can seem scary — it can also be the key to protecting your vision.

It’s always best to catch retinal disease early

Following on from the previous point, a head start on monitoring eye and retinal disease is the best way to ensure you have a broad range of treatment options available. If you discover a family history of eye-related disease, it’s advised that you:

  • Find out as much information as possible about your family’s history
  • Immediately arrange a consultation with an ophthalmologist
  • Schedule regular appointments after this point (and stick to them!)
  • Arrange ophthalmologist visits for other family members (including children — conditions such as congenital cataracts can be identified at birth)

If you’re particularly worried about your family’s history of eye health, genetic testing is something that your ophthalmologist can provide further information about, or even make a referral for.

Why visit an ophthalmologist instead of an optometrist?

At our retina clinic in Sarasota, we value the work of everyone in the medical field. Particularly those working in eye care, we understand the full extent of what professional treatment can do for a patient’s overall health.

However, if you have a family history of retinal disease, it’s important to note the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist:

An optometrist

An optometrist can examine, treat, and diagnose eye-related conditions. However, their range of treatment options may not be everything that an ophthalmologist can offer.

An ophthalmologist

Ophthalmologists train for an average of 12 years in both medical and surgical treatments for the eyes. This allows us to provide the widest range of treatment options out of all healthcare providers who specialize in eye health.

When you have a history of eye or retinal disease, it’s vital to find an eye doctor who can offer you a full range of treatment options, should you need them. At our eye clinic in Sarasota, Florida, you can be assured that all available treatment options will be investigated by our ophthalmologists, regardless of the condition you present with.

Why choose Shane Retina in Sarasota, FL?

At Shane Retina in Sarasota, FL, our highly qualified team is ready to help you tackle whatever your family history might present.

Not only are we experts in helping you protect your vision and overall eye health, we’re also experts in putting you at ease. Genetic eye disease can be a frightening thing to discover, but luckily, we’re well-versed in the exact care and treatment you need.

We have an extremely high patient satisfaction rate, with entire families scheduling regular visits with us to ensure their eye health is maintained.

Protecting your vision is our main priority, so contact us if you’d like to schedule a visit.

About the Author: Shane Retina
Shane Retina, PA is an ophthalmology clinic, specializing in retina care, in Sarasota Florida. Founded by Dr. Thomas Shane (view on, Shane Retina specializes in the treatment of most retinal issues, including macular degeneration (including eye injections), floaters and flashes, retinal detachments, and more. If you have an issue with your retina, and you are in Sarasota County, Manatee County, or the surrounding areas of Florida, please contact us today to get the retina help that you need from experienced professionals.

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