Retinitis Pigmentosa – Freedom Scientific
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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa is a progressive eye disease found in over 100,000 people in the United States. It causes retinal degeneration and severe visual loss. RP causes a loss of part of the visual field, along with reduced night vision.

normal vision VS. Retinitis PigmentosaWhat is retinitis pigmentosa? Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited eye disease, actually a group of inherited diseases. It often leads to severe visual impairment and sometimes total blindness. People with RP first develop noticeable symptoms in childhood or their teens. The first symptom most people notice is night blindness. The loss of vision is due to degeneration of the retina, specifically the rods and cones that serve as the light receptors. In most cases, the rods are affected first. Since rods are responsible for light and peripheral vision, most people find they need more light to see and perform tasks, and they cannot see well at night. When the cones are involved, the central vision and color perception are diminished. When retinitis pigmentosa occurs along with deafness, it is called Usher’s Syndrome.

What can be done if retinitis pigmentosa is diagnosed? There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, but some treatments exist to slow the progression of the disease. These mostly involve vitamin A supplements. Recent treatments include a retinal implant and retinal prosthesis. Recent research suggests that prolonged exposure to sunlight might increase the rate of vision loss, so people with RP are advised to wear sunglasses when outdoors.

What devices can help? For people with reduced vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, video magnifiers can help. They can provide both the magnification and the extra contrast and brightness to help with reading and other tasks. For those who have lost most or all their sight, screen reading software is recommended. Since retinitis pigmentosa usually begins in childhood, when people are still learning methods for reading, Braille is also a good solution.