Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) changes how the retina responds to light, making it hard to see. People with RP lose their vision slowly over time. Usually, though, they will not become totally blind.
RP is a genetic condition that can be passed down in families. The type and speed of vision loss from RP varies from person to person. It depends on the form of the condition.
• Problems with color vision. Some people may also have trouble seeing different colors.
RP can be diagnosed and measured by:
There is no single treatment for RP because there are over 100 genes that cause it. Scientists are studying why and how RP happens within families. They hope to develop treatments based on this information.
Some research has shown that vitamin A may slow the progression of certain forms of RP, but there is concern that a high intake of these supplements may lead to the worsening of other eye conditions. Your ophthalmologist can advise you about the risks and benefits of vitamin A and how much you can safely take. Taking too much vitamin A can be harmful, and evidence of its effect on RP progression is not substantial. So vitamin A supplements are not currently recommended.
Some patients develop swelling of the retina and may be helped by a certain type of eye drop or medication taken by mouth. Cataracts or clouding of the eye’s lens may also develop and surgery to treat this might be helpful for some patients. There is also an “artificial retina” called the ARGUS II implant, which may be helpful for some patients with severe vision loss due to RP.
One form of RP caused by a defect in the RPE65 gene can now be treated with medication (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl). This medicine is injected under the retina during eye surgery called vitrectomy. Scientists are working hard to develop genetic therapies for other forms of RP, so it is very important to know what specific genetic defect causes your RP.
People with low vision can learn to make the most of their remaining sight. There are many devices and ways to do things differently that can help with tasks. Vision specialists can teach you to use these tools and techniques.
If you have RP and plan to have children, speak with a genetic counselor to learn about your chance of passing this eye condition on to your children.
Researchers are testing possible new RP treatments. This includes clinical trials for a type of RP called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa. To learn more about clinical trials and if you might be able to participate, talk with us here at Calgary Eye Specialist Clinic.