Excess Vitamin A may lead to Stargardt disease

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Excess Vitamin A may lead to Stargardt disease

This disease causes progressive vision loss in childhood or adolescence

New Delhi, 23 February 2018: It is estimated that about 1 in 10,000 people inherit the Stargardt Disease, a condition diagnosed in children and young adults under the age of 20.This disease turns into macular degeneration and will eventually lead to legal blindness. However, it is different from macular degeneration found in older people.

Stargardt disease is an inherited disorder of the retina – the tissue at the back of the eye that senses light. The disease typically causes vision loss during childhood or adolescence, although in some forms, vision loss may not be noticed until later in adulthood. It is also known as Stargardt macular dystrophy, juvenile macular degeneration, or fundus flavimaculatus.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Vitamin A is beneficial for the eyes. However, when this vitamin builds up in one area of the eye, it can become toxic. This is what happens in Stargardt Disease where there is a build-up of Vitamin A in the retina. In time, this can cause progressive damage which ends up in partial blindness. There are two types of photoreceptors — rods and cones – in the retina. Together, they detect light and convert it into electrical signals, which are then ‘seen’ by the brain. Rods are found in the outer retina and help us see in dim and dark lighting. Cones are found in the macula and help us see fine visual detail and color. In this disease, both these photoreceptors die away. Both cones and rods die away in Stargardt disease, with cones affected more strongly.”

Some symptoms of this condition include slow loss of central vision in both eyes; gray, black, or hazy spots in the center of their vision; sensitivity to bright light; and in some cases, color blindness.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Currently, there is no treatment for Stargardt disease. Some ophthalmologists encourage people with Stargardt disease to wear dark glasses and hats when out in bright light to reduce the buildup of lipofuscin. Cigarette smoking, and second hand smoke should be avoided.”

The dietary recommendations for this disease are akin to that for age-related form of macular degeneration. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including fish two to three times a week. Include leafy greens daily, a handful of nuts a week, and low GI carbohydrates. Minimize the amount of fats and oils in the diet. Apart from this, ensure you get enough exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.