Heritability of myopic refractive errors in identical and fraternal twins

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1993 Oct;231(10):580-5. doi: 10.1007/BF00936522.


The existence of a visual feedback control of eye growth in humans is controversial, as the contributions of genetic and environmental factors are still unknown. To evaluate the heritability of refractive defects, we measured ocular refraction in 19 monozygote and 20 dizygote twin pairs (mean age 5 years). Monozygosity was ascertained by a common chorion, similarity of somatic traits, and identical dermatogliphes and was confirmed in myopes by blood marker diagnosis. Ocular refractive defects and axial length were evaluated by cycloplegic autorefractometry and biometry. By comparing identical and fraternal twins heritability of refractive defects was estimated to be 0.08-0.14; this low value indicates that the observed variability in refractive errors is nongenetic in origin. Three monozygote pairs were anisomyopic; differences between eyes in identical twins were related to the increased axial length of myopic eyes. In one eye, myopia was attributed to visual deprivation induced by a congenital cataract, while in five eyes it was correlated directly to the degree of astigmatic defects. The discordant axial length observed in monozygote twins is nongenetic. In agreement with previous findings reported in the literature, it is proposed that visual impoverishment of retinal images may play an early regulatory role in postnatal eye growth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Grouping and Crossmatching
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myopia / genetics*
  • Myopia / physiopathology
  • Refraction, Ocular*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*