Stargardt disease is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. It is a bilateral symmetric maculopathy, represents the 7% of all retinal hereditary dystrophies with prevalence of 1/10.000. Currently, no medical treatment has been shown to increase vision in Stargardt diseases patients.
In February 2018 a first of kind study was published in EC Ophthalmology, demonstrating significant vision improvement in 10 eyes of 5 patients suffering from stargardt, who were treated with RevitalVision, a unique clinically proven perceptual learning software program that enhance visual processing in the primary visual cortex.
The uniqueness of this study is its approach to try and improve the processing of the damaged image, rather than treat the sick eye.
The stargardt disease treatment exploits residual neuroplasticity existing in adults, and through repetitive performance of controlled patient specific visual tasks, creates a perceptual learning process, which enables the brain to better process blurred images into sharper ones. In other words, improved image processing compensates to an extent, for a blurred image, transferred from the retina.
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The symptom that brings most people to an eye doctor is a change in central vision. A doctor looking at the retina of a person with Stargardt disease will see characteristic yellowish flecks in and under the macula. The flecks might extend outward in a ring-like fashion.
The flecks are deposits of lipofuscin, a fatty byproduct of normal cell activity. In Stargardt disease, lipofuscin accumulates abnormally. The Foundation Fighting Blindness supports research studying lipofuscin build up and ways to prevent it.
A decrease in color perception also occurs in Stargardt disease. This is because photoreceptor cells involved in color perception are concentrated in the macula.
How quickly does vision fade?
The progression of symptoms in Stargardt disease is variable. Visual acuity (the ability to distinguish details and shape) may decrease slowly at first, accelerate, and then level off.
Eventually, almost everyone with Stargardt disease has a visual acuity in the range of 20/200 to 20/400. The vision loss is not correctable with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery.
What treatment is available?
While there are currently no treatments for Stargardt disease, the are several promising avenues of research, including gene, stem cell and drug therapies.
UV blocking sunglasses are generally recommended for outdoors. For people who already have significant vision loss, low vision aides are available.