When Nathan was 12 years old, he began to have some trouble in school. He noticed over time it was becoming more difficult to see the board in class. When he tried to study his textbooks, the words seemed blurry and he had blind spots. It became more difficult to comprehend what he was reading on his tests and homework. Nathan’s teacher suspected something might be going on.
Neither of Nathan’s parents had any vision problems, other than his mom wore contact lenses, so he didn’t know what to expect. As time went on, Nathan got older and his symptoms became more noticeable.
Whenever he was outside, he had to wear sunglasses because his eyes felt sensitive to the light. But when he was inside, he couldn’t see well in dimly lit rooms. He wanted to learn to drive like his friends, but he had concerns.
Nathan went to his eye doctor and was later diagnosed with Stargardt Disease. Nathan and his parents felt shocked and a bit devastated. They had a lot of questions. They wanted to know what this meant for Nathan’s future.
If you are like Nathan and have been diagnosed with Stargardt disease, you probably have many questions, too. Read on to see what Dr. Ashcraft has to share with you:
(Let me give you a hint… there is hope!)
What Is Stargardt Disease?
Stargardt disease is a rare eye disorder that is diagnosed in children and young adults, usually between ages six to twenty. It causes progressive central vision loss in both eyes and is commonly referred to as “juvenile macular degeneration”.
There are different types of juvenile macular degeneration, including Best’s disease and juvenile retinoschisis, but Stargardt disease is the most common.
How Do You Get Stargardt disease?
Stargardt disease is caused by genetics and affects roughly 30,000 people in America. An individual diagnosed with Stargardt disease has parents who are both carriers of this recessive gene, although the parents may not have the disease themselves.
Handheld devices can magnify words, so your child can have an easier time reading, writing, or studying.
Signs and Symptoms of Stargardt Disease
Individuals, like Nathan, start to notice signs of central vision loss as children, adolescents, or in their early twenties. Although symptoms can widely vary, some common symptoms they may experience include:
- Blurry, wavy, or distorted vision
- Seeing dark spots
- Difficulty seeing in poorly lit environments
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Difficulty seeing fine details
- Difficulty seeing far away objects
- Difficulty with reading comprehension
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Loss of depth perception
As the disease progresses, it can affect one’s ability to see colors and contrast. Many individual’s vision will deteriorate to the point of being considered legally blind, which is equivalent to a vision acuity of 20/200.
Although there is the loss of central vision, peripheral (side) vision is often unaffected by Stargardt disease.
Is There a Cure For Stargardt Disease?
There is currently no cure for this disease. However, there are low vision aids that can help make the most of your remaining vision so that you can take part in activities that are important to you.
Treatments for Stargardt Disease
Nathan plans to attend college after graduating high school and he has three special goals he wants to achieve: he wants to be able to see the board in class, he wants to cook in his apartment, and he wants to drive.
While the central vision loss associated with Stargardt disease is not correctable with regular glasses, special low vision glasses and devices can make a significant difference in helping Nathan better reach his goals.
During a low vision examination, I would conduct special tests to see how much remaining vision Nathan has in his eyes. Then, we would address his goals and possible solutions. First, let’s start with seeing the board in class.
I may recommend telescopic glasses, which are custom-made high-powered telescope lenses that are mounted onto distance prescription glasses. When Nathan wears these glasses and tips his head down, he can see through the telescopes, which act like binoculars for seeing objects that are far away. He would be amazed to not only see the board again, but actual words on it, too!
Now for Nathan’s second goal: cooking. Nathan needs to be able to read recipes from a book or on his smartphone, measure ingredients, press buttons and dials on the kitchen appliances, and prepare the food. There are a few different options, including mounted and hand held magnifiers to enlarge printed text, as well as hands-free telemicroscopic glasses for seeing up close.
Can I Drive With Stargardt Disease?
Driving symbolizes independence.
States have their own requirements regarding driving laws, but when other conditions are met, telescopic glasses are an option for driving in California. Wearing these glasses would help Nathan see road signs, traffic signals, street lanes, as well as other drivers with more visual clarity.
Nathan can try these devices for himself during the low vision examination. We want to find a low vision aid that not only works, but that he also likes. Afterwards, I will have a custom device made for Nathan.
How We Can Help with Stargardt Disease
Stargardt Disease can make it difficult for children to do homework, play sports, get their license and more. At the The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, our goal is to help your child succeed in school, extracurricular activities, and in life.
Come see Dr. Harold Ashcraft, who, by providing low vision aids, devices or glasses, can help enhance your child’s vision so that they can focus on learning and doing the things they love.
A Better Quality of Life for Your Child
Contact Dr. Harold Ashcraft. Together with the knowledgeable, caring staff at the The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, we’ll help your child experience improved vision and a better quality of life.