Stargardt’s disease in young children

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Human beings living in the modern society are bothered by a wide variety of vision disorders and ocular diseases and lots of their activities and entertainments are affected. For instance, it is well-known that macular degeneration is an age-related eye disease which occurs generally to the seniors. In contrast to macular degeneration, Stargardt’s disease mainly occurs in children and young adults. This article focuses on this ocular disease.

An overview of Stargardt’s disease

Also called fundus flavimaculatus, Stargardt’s disease has some typical symptoms, including small and yellowish spots of deteriorating tissues in the retina. As mentioned above, this ocular disease usually affects people in their childhood. It makes light-sensitive cells in the retina to deteriorate, which leads to central vision loss and eventually blindness. In early stages, peripheral vision remains unaffected. Using an eye chart, Stargardt’s patients are measured to have vision between 20/50 and 20/200. In this case, children with low vision caused by Stargardt’s disease should be given special care, in order to get proper classroom learning.

It is a genetically inherited juvenile macular degeneration

Stargardt’s is a form of inherited retinal disease, which explains why the disease usually appears in young children under 20 years old. More specifically, it is a genetically inherited juvenile macular degeneration. And most patients start to get this disease at an age ranging from six to twelve. Studies found out that about 5% of the whole population in the world carries gene mutations that bring inherited retinal diseases. Parents with these gene mutations will pass the disease to their children. As a result, people with Stargardt’s disease should receive genetic counseling before they decide to have a baby. Those having a Stargardt’s disease family history should also be careful before starting their own families.

Symptoms may be noticed in childhood, adolescence or midlife

Stargardt’s disease has a wide variety of visual symptoms, ranging from blurry vision, distorted vision, and poor vision in dim conditions to difficulty in recognizing familiar faces and color vision loss in final. As mentioned before, Stargardt’s disease appears in young people under 20, but the exact period and the speed of its progression are not clear so far. Cases have been found that Stargardt’s disease can occur in one sibling in early childhood and in another sibling at age 19. And some Stargardt’s patients even realize obvious symptoms until a middle age.

Tips for Stargardt’s disease prevention

People with Stargardt’s disease should avoid vitamin A, since retinal damage can be caused by abnormal vitamin synthesis. Exposure to bright light is also suspected to trigger retinal damage so that experts recommend UV protective eyeglasses or glasses with special filters for use during outdoor activities. For example, colored lenses can help filter out wavelengths shorter than 600 nm which stimulate rod vision. Blue Blocker sunglasses are also recommended. Defective genes in Stargardt’s can bring pigmented waste accumulation, which gradually damages the retina. A study of drug injection into mice eye reported that the acne drug Accutane was effective in preventing the formation of these wastes. Until now, there is no effective treatment for sufferers to slow down the progression of Stargardt’s disease. Keeping these tips for prevention in mind is thus particularly important.