What Is Retinitis Pigmentosa?
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) refers to a group of related diseases which tend to run in families and cause slow but progressive loss of vision. The retina is the tissue which lines the inside of the eye and sends visual images to the brain. In retinitis pigmentosa there is gradual destruction of some of the nervous sensors in the retina along with abnormal pigment clumping.
What Are The Symptoms Of Retinitis Pigmentosa?
The first symptoms usually occur in youth or young adulthood although it may be first seen at any age. Night blindness and loss of side vision are the most common symptoms in retinitis pigmentosa. People with normal vision adjust to the dark after a short period of time and are able to distinguish forms. People with night blindness adjust to darkness very slowly, if at all. Loss of side vision (peripheral vision) is a hindrance to those with retinitis pigmentosa as mobility becomes more difficult.
Why Is It Important To Know About Heredity In Retinitis Pigmentosa?
Most forms of retinitis pigmentosa are inherited. Different patterns of heredity are associated with different degrees of progression and so an attempt to know more about the family line will help predict how an affected person might ultimately be afflicted, though variability exists within each family. This knowledge is also helpful in making decisions about such things as marriage, family and occupation.
Is There Any Treatment For Retinitis Pigmentosa?
In general, there is no specific treatment, although one rare form might benefit from proper vitamin therapy. Much research is directed toward solving this problem. Until there is a cure, it is important for patients with this disease not be deceived by those who claim a "secret cure" or "miracle drug". Periodic examinations by an ophthalmologist are advised. The ophthalmologist will also keep the patient informed of legitimate scientific discoveries which may develop.
Patients with retinitis pigmentosa may develop other treatable disease, such as glaucoma or cataract. Low vision aids may be prescribed. In some cases, retinitis pigmentosa may be associated with other disease processes which might need evaluation by other medical specialists.
Despite visual impairment, patients with retinitis pigmentosa can live meaningful and rewarding lives with the many rehabilitative services that are available today.
Why Are Regular Medical Eye Examinations Important For Everyone?
Eye disease can strike at any age. Many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until the disease has done damage. Since most blindness is preventable if diagnosed and treated early, regular medical examinations by an ophthalmologist are very important. Why an ophthalmologist? Because only an ophthalmologist (MD or osteopath) can provide total care for your eyes: medical, surgical and optical.
© 1992 American Academy of Ophthalmology