Is eyesight influenced by nature or nurture?
Eyesight: Nature vs. nurture
Do you wear glasses? Have you ever wondered if this was a genetic pre-disposition or if it was a problem that occurred due to your environment? It turns out, there are multiple vision-related conditions that arise due to genetics (nature) and some that are influenced by where, how and with whom you live (nurture).
How vision typically develops
As you can probably imagine, we’re not born with the same level of vision that we have as adults. As newborns, we can usually only focus on objects that are eight to 12 inches away from our face. Furthermore, the world actually starts off in black and white for us. The colour red comes next and by five months of age, we can see the full spectrum of colours.
After five months, babies will start to have better control of their eye movements and they will also have better depth perception, meaning they can tell if objects are near or far.
At around age two, children develop good eye-hand coordination, which can be improved by exploring their world and reaching for and touching various objects. Vision is then typically fully developed around the age of four or five.
What you’re born with
Here are some vision-related conditions that are typically inherited. While they may not be present at birth, their development is influenced by genetics:
- Myopia: also known as nearsightedness, myopia tends to run in families and appear in early childhood, however there is no clear answer as to why this happens
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
- Astigmatism: caused by an irregularly shaped cornea making vision blurry at near and far distances, astigmatism is more common in premature or low-birth-weight babies
- Colour blindness: tends to be more common in males, especially red-green colour blindness
- Amblyopia (“lazy eye”): appears anywhere from birth to age seven
What is influenced by environment
Environment is defined by where we live in the world (geography), with whom we live (demographics), and how (our daily habits, activities, etc.). Here are some vision conditions that are influenced by environment:
- Myopia: yes, it could also be influenced by your environment. Doing a lot of near-work, like reading or looking at a tablet screen has been shown to increase the prevalence of myopia, especially in school-aged children. In fact, a recent survey shows this particular phenomenon being particularly common during COVID-19 quarantines in China; this is likely due to the fact that children were doing more near-work than usual. The reverse is also true: spending time outdoors and focusing on objects farther away can protect children from developing myopia.
- Astigmatism: can also be caused by injury to the eye
Climate change can have multiple affects on our eyes and vision, including sensitivity to light, dryness, and even the development of cataracts
If you wear glasses or contacts and are looking to get rid of them, book a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your vision correction options!