Home Health What the world looks like with Stargardt disease – as Michael Owen opens up on cruel condition robbing his son’s vision

What the world looks like with Stargardt disease – as Michael Owen opens up on cruel condition robbing his son’s vision

by Alexander
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Images shared with MailOnline by national sight loss charity Macular Society reveal how vision can deteriorate among those living with the condition.

It is a cruel disease that affects up to one in 10,000 people and eventually deprives them of their sight.

Stargardt’s disease, a little-known incurable eye condition, was featured heavily in Michael Owen’s documentary ‘Football is for Everyone’, which delved into the world of vision loss and football.

The show, which aired last week on TNT Sports, detailed how his son James, 17, was diagnosed with the disease when he was eight, ending his dream of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a professional footballer. .

Images shared with MailOnline by national sight loss charity Macular Society reveal how vision can deteriorate among those living with the condition.

Images shared with MailOnline by national sight loss charity Macular Society reveal how vision can deteriorate among those living with the condition.

The hereditary condition is passed from parents to children and is not contagious. Caused by a defective gene, it causes a buildup of fatty deposits in the macula, a small part of the retina crucial for clear central vision.

The hereditary condition is passed from parents to children and is not contagious. Caused by a defective gene, it causes a buildup of fatty deposits in the macula, a small part of the retina crucial for clear central vision.

This type of vision is essential for activities that involve seeing things in great detail, such as watching television, recognizing faces, or reading. The area causes blurred vision in the central part of the eye, as shown in the images. This patch will not move and will always be in the center of the sufferer's field of vision.

This type of vision is essential for activities that involve seeing things in great detail, such as watching television, recognizing faces, or reading. The area causes blurred vision in the central part of the eye, as shown in the images. This patch will not move and will always be in the center of the sufferer’s field of vision.

Over time, most people with Stargardt disease will see the same level of detail at six meters as unaffected people see between 60 and 120 meters. This vision loss cannot be corrected with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery.

Over time, most people with Stargardt disease will see the same level of detail at six meters as unaffected people see between 60 and 120 meters. This vision loss cannot be corrected with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery.

Stargardt's disease, a little-known incurable eye condition, was featured heavily in Michael Owen's documentary 'Football is for Everyone', which delved into the world of vision loss and football. The show, which aired last week on TNT Sports, detailed how his 17-year-old son James was diagnosed with the disease when he was just eight years old, ending his dream of following in his father's footsteps and turning professional. . soccer player. Pictured is Michael Owen and his son James on Good Morning Britain last month.

Stargardt’s disease, a little-known incurable eye condition, was featured heavily in Michael Owen’s documentary ‘Football is for Everyone’, which delved into the world of vision loss and football. The show, which aired last week on TNT Sports, detailed how his 17-year-old son James was diagnosed with the disease when he was just eight years old, ending his dream of following in his father’s footsteps and turning professional. . soccer player. Pictured is Michael Owen and his son James on Good Morning Britain last month.

Stargardt disease is an inherited eye condition, meaning it is passed from parents to children. It is not contagious.

It is caused by a defective gene that leads to the buildup of fatty deposits in the macula, a small part of the retina crucial for clear central vision.

This type of vision is essential for activities that involve seeing things in great detail, such as watching television, recognizing faces, or reading.

The area causes blurred vision in the central part of the eye, as shown in the images. This patch will not move and will always be in the center of the sufferer’s field of vision.

WHAT IS STARGARDT DISEASE?

Stargardt disease is a progressive, inherited eye condition, caused by a defective gene that causes fatty deposits to build up in the macula.

It affects one in ten thousand people and the first symptoms are usually experienced from the age of six, although it is not usually diagnosed until between the ages of ten and 20, explains Andrew Lotery, professor of ophthalmology at Southampton University Hospital.

In all macular degeneration, the first symptoms usually include a blurred area in the middle of vision and colors that appear less vibrant.

The problem is that in children, “sometimes the changes in the eye are not easy to understand, which makes it more difficult to diagnose,” says Professor Lotery.

This means that children do not receive the support they need, including advice on how to preserve most of their vision: as Professor Lotery explains, central vision often progressively worsens and most of those affected cannot read. or driving in adulthood.

The gene involved, ABCA4, helps process the breakdown of vitamin A within the eye. If the gene is defective, toxic byproducts of vitamin A accumulate in the light-sensitive cells of the eye, which then corrode and die.

In the documentary, James admitted to having difficulty seeing details. particularly different colors and lights.

While his peripheral vision was good, he acknowledged that it could also deteriorate over time.

Over time, most people with Stargardt disease will see the same level of detail at six meters as unaffected people see between 60 and 120 meters.

This vision loss cannot be corrected with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery.

Sufferers may retain their peripheral vision, what people see out of the corner of their eyes, but the vision loss is such that they may become clinically blind.

Early symptoms include difficulty reading or seeing in low light, loss of detailed vision or color perception, wavy vision, as well as blind spots and blurred vision in the central part of the eye.

These signs are usually detected in children between six and 12 years old, although they may rarely appear later in life.

It is usually diagnosed by an optician or optometrist, who can detect the accumulation of fatty deposits in the retina with their equipment.

While there is no cure, research into gene and drug therapies has provided some treatments to slow, but not stop, disease progression and retinal deterioration.

These include wearing UV-blocking sunglasses to prevent sunlight from further degrading vision, as well as avoiding large amounts of vitamin A.

Vitamin A, found in leafy vegetables, dairy and liver, is normally good for your eyesight, but it is thought that some people with Stargardt’s cannot process it properly, meaning it actually harms their health. eyes.

The documentary follows father and son on their quest to understand more about the condition through the lens of the England partially sighted futsal team.

Speaking to Mail Sport last week before the show aired, Owen admitted he found James’ diagnosis “difficult at first”.

He added: “You obviously want your children to live a perfect life, but it’s just a small bump in the road in James’ life.”

‘Yes, it’s something you have to live with and adapt to, but that’s it. You know, I have one or two negative aspects in my life and he will have one or two more negative aspects in his life. I see it like this.

‘I’m willing to risk it all, obviously he means more to me than anything else and if I could give him my eyes and make a trade I would, but these are the cards he’s been dealt and there’s no point in regurgitating them for a lifetime.’

Michael Owen's close-knit family includes his son James (top right), his wife of 29 years Louise (bottom left) and daughters Jessica, Gemma and Emily (left to right).

Michael Owen’s close-knit family includes his son James (top right), his wife of 29 years Louise (bottom left) and daughters Jessica, Gemma and Emily (left to right).

Stargardt does not affect other aspects of health, meaning that sufferers continue to have a normal life expectancy.

The condition is transmitted in a dominant or recessive manner.

The genetic dice roll often means that Stargardt can often appear in families with no history of the disease.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, told MailOnline: “We would like to thank Michael Owen for sharing his son’s diagnosis with Stargardt disease and we wish him, James and the rest of his family the best.”

“When a popular figure like Michael shares a personal story of macular disease like this, the awareness he helps raise is absolutely vital.”

He added: “It also highlights the vital importance of urgently funding more research into Stargardt disease and other macular dystrophies.”

‘Together with Retina UK, we are currently helping to fund research focusing on Stargardt disease.

“But more investment in projects like these is urgently needed if we are to succeed in ending macular disease as soon as possible.”

  • The Macular Society Helpline is available 24 hours a day for anyone living with Stargardt’s or any other form of macular disease to seek help. To contact call 0300 3030 111

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