Stargardt awareness boosted as football legend Owen reveals son’s diagnosis

Posted: Monday 16 September 2019

The urgent need for clinical research into macular dystrophies has been highlighted after football legend Michael Owen revealed that his teenage son has a rare form of macular disease.

The former England striker has brought Stargardt disease sharply into focus by announcing that his son James was diagnosed with the condition several years ago.

Owen told the Times newspaper: “My son’s got an eye condition. I’ve never said this. I don’t want a big headline.

“As much as every father wants their son to play, it’s almost a relief to me. Everyone always asks, ‘Is he going to be a footballer’ and then I stand on the side of the pitch and hear, ‘He’s not as good as his dad.’

“He’s got Stargardt disease, a degeneration of his retina. He can’t see the ball until it’s five yards away.”

Stargardt disease is an inherited genetic condition caused by a tiny alteration in a single gene and is the most common form of juvenile macular dystrophy. Symptoms can include difficulty reading or seeing in dim light, blurriness and distorted vision. Children often first experience symptoms between the ages of six and 12, though some may not show any symptoms until adulthood.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “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 their family well. When a popular figure like Michael shares a personal story of macular disease like this, the awareness it helps to create is absolutely vital. It also highlights just how vitally important it is that more research into Stargardt disease and other macular dystrophies is funded as a matter of urgency.

“Alongside Retina UK, we are currently helping to fund a study being undertaken in the Netherlands focussing on Stargardt disease. But more investment in projects like these is urgently needed if we’re to be successful in ending macular disease sooner rather than later.”

The Macular Society has been supporting people with macular conditions for over 30 years. We offer information and support while we fund research to find a cure so that one day we can overcome macular disease. All our services are free; no one has to face macular disease alone.

If you have been diagnosed with macular disease call us on 0300 3030 111 to find out more about our free support services.

For more information on Stargardt disease, please visit our dedicated stargardt disease page.