Retinitis Pigmentosa

The term retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is used to refer to a group of degenerative genetic diseases. These diseases gradually kill off the light-sensing cells of the retina (rods and cones), and eventually result in blindness. It is a relatively rare disorder that affects only 1 in 4,000 people. Living with retinitis pigmentosa can be difficult to adjust to without proper support. However, while medical science does not currently have a cure for RP, regular visits with your eye care professional are important to monitor the progression of the disease, adjust to the condition, and so that you can become aware of new RP treatments as they become available.

Symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa

There are variations in how a different people inherit and develop retinitis pigmentosa; however, the disease is usually characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Poor and narrowing peripheral vision.
  • Difficulty seeing in dimly-lit conditions, including while driving. This is often called “night blindness.”
  • As the disease progresses, vision may narrow to just a small, central vision field or “tunnel vision.”
  • Difficulty distinguishing colors.
  • Problems reading or doing intricate close-up work due to the deficiencies in the central field of vision, which is often affected first.

The progression of the condition can vary widely depending on whether it is inherited as a dominant or recessive trait. Regular testing by your eye care professional is very important if you have RP for two reasons:

  1. Eye exams and vision tests can give you an idea of how your condition is progressing so that you can be aware of and prepare for any adaptations you need to make as your vision declines.
  2. With modern technology, there are currently efforts under way to provide treatments to slow the progression of RP, or to create solutions that simulate the behavior of healthy retina cells. Your eye care professional can inform you of any developments that might be able to make a positive impact in the quality of your life as you live with this condition.

If you or a loved one suffers from any of the symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa, please contact your eye care professional today for an appointment.

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