Juvenile Macular Degeneration: Stargardt’s Disease

Stargardt’s disease is a retinal condition that usually begins in childhood or young adulthood. In fact, 60% of patients are diagnosed with the hereditary disease before they are 20 years old. 1 Sometimes known as Juvenile Macular Degeneration, Stargardt’s is symptomatically similar to AMD and causes progressive vision loss.

What Causes Stargardt’s Disease?

Stargardt’s disease is the most common form of inherited Juvenile Macular Degeneration. The condition is passed along to offspring when both parents carry mutations of a certain gene that influences the way vitamin A is processed in the eye.

To get a more in-depth understanding of what having Stargardt’s disease is like, AMDBlog.org recently contacted and spoke with Ayman Khalidy, who has been living with the disease for over a decade.

“In the beginning, I didn’t feel anything,” explains now 24-year-old Ayman Khalidy, who has suffered from Stargardt’s since he was nine years old. “Initially, my grade four teacher asked me to read a word from about three meters away and I told him I couldn’t see it.” Khalidy’s father then took him to a specialist, who ultimately diagnosed him with Stargardt’s Disease. “I didn’t feel that I had a problem in my eyes until the doctor checked me—and I couldn’t see any of the letters,” adds Khalidy.

How Fast Does Stargardt’s Progress?

There is a wide variation from person to person in terms of symptoms and in how quickly the disease will progress. It’s difficult for doctors to predict what a patient’s vision will be like in the future. Like with AMD, the progression of Stargardt’s can be slow and gradual over several years, or, it can occur in a short period of time.  As the condition progresses, patients tend to experience tiny areas of vision loss, flashers or blind spots.

“I think my vision became worse when I first saw a ‘flasher spot’ when I was young. It was a bronze flame colour in the center of both of my eyes,” says Khalidy. “After that, I felt sad and sometimes afraid at school. I didn’t want the teacher to ask me to read anything,” he recalls.

Can Stargardt’s Be Treated?

There is no known treatment for Stargardt’s disease at this time. However, despite the lack of treatment for the condition, routine eye checkups are still very important. People with the condition are also heavily advised to wear 100% UVA/UVB ray protective sunglasses with orange lenses in brightly lit rooms or while outdoors. Moreover, since sensitivity to sunlight can be intense and Stargardt’s patients often find relief living in areas where there is less sunlight, or in an area where it frequently rains.

The Good News:

The good news is that Stargardt’s almost never causes complete vision loss and peripheral vision is typically left intact. Khalidy admits that though he has trouble finding a steady job due to his poor eyesight, he has learned to utilize the eyesight he has left. In fact, over time, Khalidy says he’s learned to function quite well with the disease. “Most of the time, if I need to read small font, I just use a magnifier,” he adds.

Stargardt’s patients should increase their intake of antioxidants such as lutein to increase circulation to the eye. MacuHealth with LMZ3 could help postpone the progression of Stargardt’s. Discuss a care plan with your eye doctor.

Have you ever heard of Stargardt’s Disease before? How do you think having Stargardt’s Disease from a young age would compare with an AMD diagnosis?

1 http://www.alkeus.com/stargardt.html

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