Macular Degeneration and Children
Macular degeneration is a progressive disease of the thin layer of nerve cells at the back of the eye commonly referred to as the retina. It causes progressive loss of central eyesight. If the central part of the retina called the Macula is damaged, then central vision is affected. It contains photoreceptors which convert light into electrical pulses which are transferred by the optic nerve to the brain. If these photoreceptor cells degenerate then they cause Macular degeneration. Most of the cases of Macular degeneration are reported for people over the age of sixty, however, the condition also affects children.
Macular degeneration in children can cause a variety of other conditions - for example Stargardt’s disease. This is the most common form of genetic macular degeneration in children. Children with Stargardt disease will not complain of complete loss of vision but poor central vision. At this stage, the retina displays a Macular wound surrounded by yellowish white spots with varying shapes. The vision at this point continues to depreciate gradually and after a few years. The child may start complaining of cloudy vision.
A variance of Macular degeneration is called Macular Oedema. This is a condition characterized by accumulation of fluid on the macular area within the retina. Remember macular degeneration is characterized by accumulation of fluid at the bottom of the retina so this is a completely different condition. If Macular Oedema occurs in a critical part of the macular, its effects are more advanced and are referred to as Clinically Significant Macular Oedema.
There are other types of macular degeneration in children. Most of these diseases are inherited. Some of them are Cone Rod Dystrophy where patients first experience loss of central vision characterized by blurry eyes. This is followed by night blindness and ultimately complete loss of eyesight. Corneal Dystrophy affects both eyes and results in very rare disorders. These disorders can occur during birth but mostly occur during adolescence and progress gradually. The other types include Fuch's Dystrophy which affects the cornea, Sorsby's Macular Dystrophy which is also called Macular Cyst and the Best Disease which affects the retina causing poor color perception. Juvenile Retinoschisis occurs exclusively in males and causes loss of central eyesight and ultimate blindness. The last type of macular degeneration we will talk about is scotomas. This is an area of the eye that is visually impaired and is surrounded by a perfectly normal area of vision.
Currently, there is no known treatment for macular degeneration in children. Whereas surgery has been used to treat the same condition on old people, it has not brought the same results in a younger population. Doctors and researchers are still spending great effort trying to demystify this condition. Certain nutritional supplements combined with microcurrent stimulation have been found to slow the rate at which the disease grows. The only remedy currently available is use of visual aids like glasses, large print books and page magnifiers.