Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the name for a group of eye diseases. RP causes the thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye, which is called the retina, to deteriorate. RP diseases are genetic and are passed down from one or both parents.
RP damages the cells in the retina that sense light. These cells are known as rods and cones. The rods are associated with side vision and night vision. Clear central vision and color vision are associated with the cones.
RP mutates the genes of the rod cells and they slowly stop working. As the rod cells stop working, peripheral vision is slowly lost until you can only see a small tunnel of vision straight ahead. RP can cause serious vision loss.
Roughly 400,000 Americans have retinitis pigmentosa and other related retinal disorders.
Symptoms of RP are not limited to any one age group. The first signs may appear in adulthood, but usually appear during childhood or adolescence. The two most common symptoms of RP that you should watch for are:
Doctors are still working to understand RP and find better treatments. Right now, there is no cure for RP.
Early detection of RP helps people to plan for the disease and any loss of sight. People with RP should wear a visor and sunglasses to protect their eyes in bright sunlight.
If you have RP, you should ask your doctor for a referral to a low-vision specialist who can help you to make the most of your limited vision. There are also several aids available, such as electronic magnifiers and night vision scopes, to help you to live with RP.