Is Stargardt’s Disease Genetic?

Also known as juvenile macular degeneration, Stargardt’s disease is a genetic eye disorder that causes progressive vision loss. It affects the macula, an area of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. 

Stargardt’s disease occurs when a genetic mutation causes proteins (lipofuscin) to build up and block the passing of nutrients and waste to and from the macula. Over time, the accumulation of this substance negatively affects the macula and its cone photoreceptor cells. 

As central visual acuity declines, patients will notice difficulty with reading, identifying faces, driving and clearly viewing a television screen, computer screen, phone or tablet. They may notice blurriness or distorted vision and/or a blind spot in their vision. In addition to central vision loss, people with Stargardt macular degeneration have problems with night vision that can make it difficult to navigate in low light. Some affected individuals also have impaired color vision. The signs and symptoms of Stargardt macular degeneration typically appear in late childhood to early adulthood and will worsen over time.

Due to the slow progression of the disease, it is common for symptoms to go unnoticed for several years. Because the condition is genetic, if a family member has Stargardt’s disease, a parent should have their child’s eyes examined by an ophthalmologist or undergo genetic testing to check for signs of the condition.  

There are currently no treatments for Stargardt’s disease, however it is possible to slow the progression of this disease by protecting the eyes from sun damage. 

To learn more about Stargardt’s disease or other genetic macular conditions, contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or website to schedule an examination with our doctors.

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