What is Stargardt’s Disease?
Stargardt’s (or Stargardt) disease is the most common form of hereditary dystrophy and macular degeneration of the eye. It is due to a gene mutation and its clinical appearance begins -in some cases- before the age of 20, manifested by a decrease in visual acuity. This incurable disease occurs with a frequency of about 1 / 10.000 people.
In the early stages of the disease, the Macula usually shows significant changes in the pigment epithelium of retina, which are followed by the appearance of a horizontal and oval zone of atrophy.In later stages, macular lesions may be associated with central choroid dystrophy.
This disease usually has autosomal residual heredity.The autosomal form is due to mutations in the ABCR gene, which encodes the transport protein along the cell membrane, expressed in the outer parts of the rods. Currently in Western medicine there is no cure for Stargardt’s disease, or a treatment that slows its progression.
Which are the symptoms of Stargardt’s disease?
The patient’s symptoms are various. Blind spots, turbidity, loss of depth perception, decreased perception of colors and difficulty adjusting to low light, are some of the symptoms described by patients with Stargard’s disease. It is a remarkable pathology of the retina,because it involves the central part of the visual field that allows us to read, pour water into a glass, insert the key into the lock, and make all the daily precision–movements.
Initially Central vision is affected; over time, Peripheral Vision may be affected too.The patient’s loss of visual acuity cannot be treated with common vision glasses. The younger the patient’s age the faster the progression of the disease, and the prognosis is also worse
In which ways can Stargardt’s disease become diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made by special methods of imaging which are currently available to patients. Fundoscopy and the colored imaging of the depth of the eye (Fluorescein angiography), will reveal certain lesions. Most of these lesionsare found in the center, but in cases of orange/red flecks, these are found on the periphery of the fundus(depth) of the eye; it’s a special condition called Fundus Flavimaculatus.
The best form of imaging is depthself-fluorescence, a special representation of the depth of the eye, which shows the accumulation of Lipofuscin within the dark epithelium’s cells. This procedure also reveals the atrophy of this layer, which is represented as dark spots or dark areas, due to the death of cells (a result ofLipofuscin accumulation).
Moreover, electrophysiological testing of vision is very useful for investigating the function of the retina in light and in darkness.
The Electroretinogram confirms the diagnosis, and when repeatedly performed, can also indicate the tendency of the future progression of Stargardt disease.
Therapeutic Approach: AcupuncturecanhelppatientswithStargardt’sdisease
To this day, there have been unfortunately no particular or encouraging therapeutic developments for the treatment of the disease, within classical medicine.
There is no specific treatment for Stargardt’s disease. Recommendations for the possible reduction of lesions include: avoidance of the destructive ultraviolet light, reduction of foods rich in vitamin A (in hope of reducing the accumulation of lipofuscin), smoking restriction, and maintaining good health and a balanced diet.
According to the latest study, published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Western Medicine’sefforts to treat Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and Stargardt’s disease have so far been unsuccessful. Stargardt’sremainsanincurabledisease.
The only way to reverse the progression of this incurable disease is by Medical Acupuncture. Acupuncture practiced by qualified physicians(acupuncturists), has been shown not only to reverse, but also improve visual acuity by acting primarily on the macula of the eye, and less on the rest of the retina. This happens because through Acupuncture we achieve optimal blood perfusion locally, as well as a smoother and proper functioning of the nerve tissue in the spot.
The results are particularly pleasing, because this technique combines Traditional Chinese Medicine, Electroacupuncture, Otoacupuncture, Herbal Therapy, and is completely personalized, depending on the pathology and needs of each patient.
An irrefutable case of successful treatment of Stargardt’s disease is that of the founder of “Orasis Acupuncture Center” Mr. Vasilios Spyrou, a patient of Stargardt’s disease himself. Mr. Spyrou experienced the gradual loss of his vision from the age of 21. Following a painful and costly pursuit of therapy for 25 years in several clinics and hospitals abroad, he managed to arrest the progression of Stargardt’s (leading to total blindness)through Medical Acupuncture and Electroacupuncture,thus substantially improving his visual acuity.
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