Stargardt's Disease: What It Is and How Low Vision Aids Can Help

Happy December! We can't believe that it's already the last month of 2020! We at Vision Buddy hope that you've been staying safe and healthy. 

Stargardt Disease: What Is It?

We have enjoyed talking about different eye conditions and how wearable tech can help them. We hope that they have been educational and helpful for you. So far, we have talked about macular degeneration and today, we want to talk about a more specific form: Stargardt disease.

Stargardt disease is also known as Stargardt macular dystrophy, juvenile macular degeneration, or fundus flavimaculatus. Since it's a type of macular degeneration, it involves a progressive deterioration in the macula part of the eye, a small part of the eye that's located in the retina. This results in central vision loss. 

What Is Stargardt Disease? - American Academy of Ophthalmology

This is a diagram of an eye. Stargardt disease has damage in the macula. Photo from American Academy of Ophthalmology. 

A notable difference between Stargardt disease and the common eye condition age-related macular degeneration (one of the most common forms) is that Stargardt is an inherited disorder. This means that it is caused by genetics, and not something that occurs with age. It is certainly rarer than age-related macular degeneration. 

Like with many eye conditions, Stargardt affects everyone differently. Some may lose peripheral vision in addition to central vision. Some may develop colorblindness. Some might have more sensitivity to bright light. Some might have difficulty seeing in low light situations. 

Something that many have in common is that they struggle with adjusting to living with low vision. After all, many start with normal vision and gradually, their eye sight becomes worse. Having to live through a severe vision loss can be very difficult. Many may struggle to do the tasks they used to do, such as reading books or seeing faces. This can be very frustrating, and even devastating. 

Rough depiction of what someone with Stargardt disease might see. Loss of central vision.

This is what someone with Stargardt disease might see.  

What Causes Stargardt Disease?

In order to better understand Stargardt disease, let's understand the cause of it. Our eyes have light sensing cells photoreceptors that enable us to see. They are rods and cones. Rods help with peripheral vision and low light situations while cones are more centrally focused and help with seeing details and color. While both can be affected by Stargardt disease, cones tend to be more affected than rods (which makes sense, because Stargardt disease is often associated with central vision loss). 

Retina with macular scar

This is a picture of an eye affected by Stargardt disease. There is some scarring in the central macula. Photo from National Eye Institute. 

The most common cause of Stargardt disease is a mutation in a gene called ABCA4. This gene is responsible for clearing vitamin A byproducts. While vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, the byproducts can be harmful. So, when they aren't cleared out, they can create a visual impairment by creating clumps around the macula (lipofuscin) and killing of photoreceptors. 

Treatments for Stargardt Disease

While we are continuing to learn a lot about Stargardt disease through research, there is currently no cure for it. Some may wear sunglasses/hats in bright light to prevent buildup of lipofuscin that affects vision in the macula. Many also limit their consumption of Vitamin A supplements as a way to minimize the buildup. Counseling and occupational therapy may also be used to help those with Stargardt disease adjust to living with low vision. 

Low vision aids can also help those with Stargardt, such as reading and magnifiers. This helps with daily tasks such as using a microwave, looking outside the window, and reading a newspaper. There is a big range of low vision aids from a simple magnifier to advanced wearable technology.

Vision Buddy is the latter: it is a low vision aid that helps with reading, magnification, AND TV watching! It's a wearable headset that comes helps with many different eye conditions and Stargardts disease is one! It sounds like it would be complex, but we have made simplicity the focus of our product. We know that losing vision can be hard, and we want our product to help with this. With Vision Buddy, you can see the faces of your loved ones, read your favorite books, and watch your favorite TV shows more easily! We can't restore vision the way it used to be but we want to make your day to day activities a little easier. 

Vision Buddy headset

Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, we are still offering a deal: get a free Amazon Echo Dot with a Vision Buddy purchase with the code VBECHO. It's while supplies last!

As always, we would love to chat with you if you have any questions or want to find out more. You can give us a call at 1-833-787-2020, send us a chat, or send us an email at