How An Optometrist Diagnoses and Manages Stargardt Disease

How An Optometrist Diagnoses and Manages Stargardt Disease

Stargardt disease is an inherited eye disease that causes vision loss. It most commonly is diagnosed in people ages 6 to 20  and is often called juvenile macular dystrophy. Stargardt disease affects the area of the eye called the macula, which is the part of the retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for most of our central vision, colour vision, and fine detail definition. When a person has Stargardt disease, the light sensing cells in the macula, called photoreceptors, die off, leaving the central vision blurry or with dark areas. People with Stargardt disease can also have problems seeing colour.

How Is Stargardt Disease Detected And What Can Be Done About It?

Symptoms Of Stargardt Disease

Stargardt disease impares central vision, creating blurry, distorted, or dark areas. Because this vision impairment is focused only on central vision, the peripheral vision is typically unaffected. Stargardt disease slowly, but progressively impedes vision, typically speeding up when vision reaches 20/40, which means that what a person sees at 20 feet is what a person with typical vision sees at 40 feet. With Stargardt disease, vision has been known to get worse until about 20/200 and then plateau. Stargardt disease might be noticed if a person is having difficulty reading or adapting to changes in light.

Diagnosing Stargardt Disease

During an eye exam, optometrists will use eye drops to dilate the pupils to obtain a clearer view of the retina. If someone has Stargardt disease, the optometrist will see yellow flecks (called lipofuscin)in and under the macula. These flecks are fat deposits that build up in the eyes and break down the retinal pigment epithelium, which is the nutritional support layer for the rods and cones of the retina. Another test that can be used to diagnose Stargardt disease is fluorescent angiography, where a dye is injected into your arm and makes veins more visible as it circulates through the retina’s blood. If the dye shows a dark area in the tissue of the retina, it could be a sign of Stargardt disease. Genetic testing is also now available.


There is no cure for Stargardt disease, but treatments are being researched through drug therapy and gene therapy trials. People with Stargardt disease can find relief by wearing sunglasses to help with light sensitivity and preventing further light damage to the retina. Those who suffer from Stargardt disease should also refrain from smoking cigarettes or being around cigarette smoke. If you suffer from Stargardt disease, talk to your optometrist about low vision rehabilitation services.

Book An Eye Exam With A Calgary Optometrist at Specs In The City

If you believe you may be suffering from Stargardt Disease, visit your Calgary optometrist for an eye exam. The experienced and professional optometrists at Specs in the City can help you find the cause if you are experiencing impaired central vision, trouble adjusting to changes in lighting conditions, or seeing colour properly. Contact us at 1-403-252-2020 or through our online contact form. Our Calgary eye doctors are committed to providing top quality service and helping you understand your eye health. If you or your child is diagnosed with Stargardt, the Specs in the City team will develop a comprehensive treatment program to address symptoms and improve vision. Our SE Calgary optometry clinic is conveniently located just off of Blackfoot Trail and we offer Saturday appointments.


Q: Will a person with Starsgardt go blind?
A: Starsgardt does not cause full blindness, as the peripheral vision is left intact. The rate and progressional of central vision loss will vary from person to person.

Q: At what age does Starsgardt set in?
A: Typically, Stargardt develops between ages 6 and 20, although it is possible to develop it later in life.

Q: How can I prevent Starsgardt?
A: Currently, there is no prevention or treatment for Stargardt. For optimal eye health, schedule regular comprehensive eye exams for your entire family and notify your Calgary optometrist if you experience any changes in your vision. Your eye doctor will help you understand Starsgardt disease and the options you have now and as new treatments and technologies emerge.

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