What is Stargardt disease?
Your IALVS eye doctor can help with the symptoms of vision loss
Stargardt disease is an inherited eye disease that leads to vision loss in children and young adults. It affects more than 30,000 people in the US. This condition, also called Juvenile Macular Degeneration or Early Onset Macular Degeneration, occurs when the photoreceptors (cells that sense light) in the macula die off. As a result, central vision becomes blurred and has dark areas, and it’s impossible to see details.
If you or your child has suffered vision loss from Stargardt Disease, an IALVS eye doctor will perform a thorough eye exam to evaluate your remaining vision. Based on the results of this exam, we’ll match you with the most helpful low vision devices and rehabilitation to take full advantage of the remaining eyesight.
How you can benefit from custom-designed low vision assistance
Our IALVS eye doctors are trained in the latest, advanced technologies for low vision, including optic aids and computerized devices. To determine the best ways to optimize your vision, we will perform a detailed eye exam and discuss your daily lifestyle and activities. By understanding your personal routine and preferences, we can design an individualized low vision rehabilitation plan that satisfies your needs.
Some low vision devices that can help:
- Magnifiers can help with reading, seeing signs, identifying faces, and watching TV or using a computer
- Bioptics and optical systems, such as hands-free glasses with telescopic and microscopic lenses, can enhance a range of daily functions
- Customized electronic eyeglasses, such as eSight eyewear, promote independence and may make it possible to read and possibly drive
What are the symptoms of Stargardt disease?
The first symptom of Stargardt disease that a person may notice is a problem with central vision. It may appear distorted or have dark areas. In general, peripheral vision is unaffected.
Some people also have trouble seeing colors, and adjusting from bright to dim areas may be slower than normal. Stargardt disease usually progresses slowly, then speeds up and plateaus. Visual acuity may worsen until it reaches about 20/200.
Who is at risk for getting Stargardt disease?
This condition is genetic, and the gene must be inherited from both parents in order for it to occur. If you inherit only a single gene from one parent, you will be a carrier for Stargardt disease – but you will not experience any symptoms.
How does your eye doctor diagnose Stargardt disease?
Your eye doctor will perform a dilated eye exam to inspect your retina for the yellowish flecks (called lipofuscin) in and under the macula that are characteristic of Stargardt disease. Another diagnostic test that may be done is fluorescein angiography, in which a dye is injected into your arm and then photographed as it flows through the blood vessels of your retina. If you have Stargardt disease, the images will display a dark area within the retinal tissue.
Is it possible to get a driver's license with Stargardt disease?
Teenagers and young adults with Stargardt disease may worry that they cannot get a driver’s license. Fortunately, our IALVS eye doctors are knowledgeable about various types of customized low vision aids such as bioptic telescope glasses, which can sharpen distance vision for patients with severe vision loss due to Stargardt disease. Your low vision eye doctor will assess your vision precisely to recommend the most helpful low vision glasses.
Depending on the state you live in (DMV state driving laws vary), customized bioptic telescope glasses may be approved for driving. These low vision optics enable you to read signs and see traffic lights in the distance. So getting a driver’s license and driving safely with Stargardt disease - even if you are legally blind - can be an option! We can help.
What treatment for Stargardt disease can an IALVS eye doctor provide?
At present, there is no cure for this condition and there is no treatment to slow the progression. However, wearing sunglasses can relieve some of the discomfort caused by extreme light sensitivity. Also, sunglasses with 100% UV protection will help prevent further damage to your retina.
When you meet with your IALVS eye doctor, your remaining vision will be assessed. This helps to determine which are the best, specialized low vision devices to maximize your eyesight and quality of daily life. In addition, because Stargardt disease can progress, we will perform regular eye exams to monitor for any changes and adjust your low vision assistance so that it still gives you maximum benefits.