WHAT IS RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA?
Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare genetic disease that causes deterioration of light-sensing cells in the retina, a small area at the back of the eye. This leads to loss of night vision, peripheral vision, and visual sharpness. Actually a group of disorders, retinitis pigmentosa can begin to affect vision in childhood or young adulthood and often eventually leads to blindness.
The disease affects about 100,000 Americans and currently has no cure. Your risk for developing retinitis pigmentosa depends on the presence of the mutated genes in your DNA.
Retinitis pigmentosa can also be a symptom of complex syndromes that affect other body systems.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA?
Rods, which are involved in the perception of low light, are typically the first cells affected by the disease, so night vision is affected first, along with peripheral vision, which may become increasingly splotchy. Deterioration of the cones, which are involved in brighter light and color perception, leads to loss of image sharpness and development of tunnel vision.
The age when symptoms appear and the rate of vision loss vary from person to person.
WHAT CAUSES RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA?
Researchers have identified more than 60 genes involved in the development of retinitis pigmentosa. Mutations in these genes cause a disruption in the retina’s ability to produce a protein essential for developing rods and cones, the photosensitive (light-sensing) cells in the retina.
Because retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder, it is passed from parent to child, with inheritance risk depending on whether one or both parents have the disease or are carriers of the mutated genes.
Genetic testing is available to assess risk but no cure has yet been developed.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA?
Although no cure has yet been found for retinitis pigmentosa, corrective lenses and night vision devices can improve your sight and increase your quality of life.
Losing vision doesn’t mean giving up on your life activities, it just means learning new ways to do them.
Braille Institute’s FREE Low Vision Rehabilitation Service includes personalized one-on-one appointments with Low Vision Specialists that will work with you to maximize your remaining vision by:
- Assessing your particular needs
- Providing practical tips on lighting, contrast enhancement and glare control
- Exploring devices that can help you accomplish everyday tasks like reading, watching TV, and more
In addition to appointments with Low Vision Specialists, Braille Institute’s regional centers offer a variety of programs and services for the blind and visually impaired including Independent Living Skills classes, Orientation & Mobility training, one-on-one technology classes, audio and braille books, and much more.
To learn more or to schedule a FREE one-on-one appointment with one of our Low Vision Specialists, call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553).