Stargardt’s Disease is a kind of juvenile macular dystrophy, starting early in the life. It has been named after its first founder Dr. Stargardt’s in 1909 and is reported to be one of the most common forms of juvenile macular dystrophies. World Health Organization is further noted that one out of every 20,000 children, within the age group of 6-20 are being diagnosed with dystrophy; irrespective of the gender.
Stargardt’s disease is identified as a genetic condition inherited via dominant gene of either one parent or recessive genes from both the parents; moreover, with recent investigations, a gene that is responsible for the condition is identified to be ABCR or abca4. It has been observed that in many cases of Stargardt’s disease, the macula, a central part of the retina and its surrounding is affected. Furthermore, since macula is responsible for central, crisp vision and for color discrimination; its dystrophy or degradation may result in loss of visual acuity, visual sharpness, color discrimination and appearance of small blind spots.
Typically, children suffering with the said issue may complain for:
- Decreased visual acuity: Many people have reported initial sudden mild loss of visual acuity, which may soon be normal after some relaxation; due to which people tend to ignore it many of the times. However, this should be considered as an alarming situation, with immediate need of expert’s advice.
- Come and Go Vision: Many patients may experience frequent common episodes of visual loss or blind phases; at different time intervals. As a matter of fact, people may experience this come and go effect, due to disappearance and reappearance of object, on the damaged macula.
- Eccentric Viewing: Reports indicate that the Stargardt’s disease can be characterized by the appearance of central blind spot, which progressively increases in size. Eventually, patients learn to redirect their eyes to see around the blind spots. It has been further apparent that patients should learn to place the image, adjacent to macula to maximize their visual field.
- Photo stress and Adaptation to dark: Frequent complaints have been noted from children with Stargardt’s diseases, towards their adaption in dark and/or after sunlight exposure. It has been investigated and further suggested that light striking our retina may trigger a chemical reaction to damage rods and cones. Moreover, when a patient is exposed to bright sunlight; their retina may get bleached, thus decreasing its visual sharpness and increase blind spots.
- Photophobia: Patients have as well reported complaints about increase light sensitivity and decreased color vision; due to damaged rods and cones as well as macula.
Being a genetic issue, no full proof treatment is reported against the issue; however, with the recent advent of stem cell therapy, it is possible to minimize the progression associated with the Stargardt’s degenerative dystrophy. Investigations have further suggested that differentiation capability of stem cells can be potentially useful in regeneration of damaged rods and cones; thus, adding up towards its functional restoration to some extent. Moreover, vasculogenesis abilities of these stem cells can as well be helpful in formation of new blood vessels, in the area around the macula, helping it to be little bit functionally stronger. Since these stem cells have been isolated from a patient’s own body sources, such as Bone Marrow and Adipose Tissue; they are reported to be absolutely safe and effective.