Stargardt’s disease is early onset macular degeneration, and refers to a group of inherited eye diseases that cause light-sensitive retinal cells to deteriorate, particularly in the area of the macula. Central vision loss occurs, while peripheral vision is usually retained. Stargardt’s disease is often referred to as early onset macular degeneration, but unlike macular degeneration, Stargardt’s rarely progresses to the point where abnormal blood vessels grow through the retina.
Also known as juvenile macular dystrophy, Stargardt’s is the most common form of inherited macular degeneration along with fundus flavimaculatus (a variant of Stargardt’s) and accounts for 7% of all retinal dystrophies. It usually presents in childhood (about six years old) to early adulthood and generally occurs bilaterally. There is also progressive color blindness. Prognosis is generally poor. Once vision drops below 20/40 (or 6/12 meters), progression is rapid and the visual prognosis is poor. This disorder affects approximately one in 10,000 people in the U.S.
Stargardt’s is an inherited disease passed along to children when both parents carry mutations of a gene associated with vitamin A processing in the eye. Parents can carry recessive genetic traits responsible for Stargardt’s, even though they themselves may not have the disease. Researchers have found that about 5 percent of the human population carry gene mutations causing inherited retinal diseases such as Stargardt’s, rod/cone dystrophy and retinitis pigmentosa.
Like AMD, Stargardt’s disease is diagnosed by the presence of small, yellowish spots of deteriorating tissue (drusen) sloughed off from the outer covering of the retina (retinal pigment epithelium).
Vision loss from Stargardt’s generally begins to show up within the first 20 years of life, more often in early childhood. But it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when retinal damage will occur or how fast it will progress, because variations can occur even among family members with similar inherited tendencies.
For example, one study reported in the May 2006 issue of American Journal of Ophthalmology noted the case of three siblings, two of whom showed signs of retinal disease in early childhood, but the third sibling wasn’t affected until around age 19. In some cases, a person with Stargardt’s may reach middle age before vision problems are noticed.
Much like AMD, Symptoms of Stargardt’s disease can include blurry or distorted vision, inability to see in low lighting and difficulty recognizing familiar faces. In late stages of Stargardt’s, color vision also may be lost.
This is considered a variant of Stargardt’s disease due to the same gene being affected. However, this condition presents later and the macula may be spared. This is more general retinal degeneration. Presentation occurs in adulthood: may be discovered by chance or the patient may present with central visual deterioration. Deterioration in color vision is often not noticed by the patient until later on. Peripheral and night vision are usually unaffected. Prognosis tends to be better than in Stargardt’s disease. Patients may remain asymptomatic for many years.
Stargardt’s disease, also known as fundus flavimaculatis, is the most common form or inherited juvenile macular degeneration. The majority of people suffering from Stargardt’s disease are diagnosed before the age of twenty. By the age of fifty, most patients will be legally blind, having a visual acuity of 20/200 or less. Stargardt’s disease behaves very much like AMD, and responds to acupuncture treatment similarly, although it is generally not complicated by neovascularization.
We Can Help
Over the years, many Stargardt’s patients have benefited from acupuncture at the Arkansas Acupuncture Center. Patients coming to the clinic for Stargardt’s disease treatment with acupuncture range in age from nine to sixty years. The treatment is not a cure, but will help the eyes heal from the damage resulting from the disease. The acupuncture for degenerative eye diseases is similar to macular degeneration treatments and retinitis pigmentosa treatments. Macular degeneration acupuncture treatments, acupuncture treatment for glaucoma and treatment for retinitis pigmentosa are all similar with variations.