Retinitis pigmentosais progressive degenerative disease that affects the retina. It runs in families and gradually leads to loss of vision. One cannot judge how much and how soon will a person will lose vision. The retinal degradation will make it very hard for the affected person to see in dim or dark light, central vision becomes poor and leads to difficulty reading and watching TV.
Symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa
The affected individual initially experiences night blindness as the degeneration initiates in the rod cells of the retina. These rod cells are responsible for night vision. Gradually, it progresses to loss of peripheral vision and then central vision, which could take place after years or decades of night blindness.
The last stage is total blindness.
Retinitis pigmentosa can happen at any age ranging from childhood to old age. However, most cases are diagnosed in old age.
Causes of retinitis pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder and the mutation occurs in multiple genes. The chromosomal inheritance also varies which essentially are autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant, or X-linked.
If the genetic trait is recessive then both parents will be carrier of mutated genes, but they won’t have symptoms; however their children can have retinitis pigmentosa. In case of dominant trait, the mutated gene is passed to the child from a parent with retinitis pigmentosa and X linked genes are inherited by children (more chances of the son being affected than the daughter) from their mother with retinitis pigmentosa.
When to see a doctor?
The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosado not always signify that you have this eye disease. Thus, you need to see an eye doctor who can confirm retinitis pigmentosa.
Under any circumstance do not neglect symptoms of vision problems, make sure you go for eye check-up without delay.
Diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa
You have to explain your eye doctor the problems you are experiencing with your vision. Diagnosis involves taking family history of retinitis pigmentosa.
Following this, a test known as fundus examination is conducted. It involves dilating the pupils and looking at the back layers of the eye with the ophthalmoscope to detect typical signs or patterns of the disease.
You have to undergo comprehensive eye exam including visual field test to determine the progression and nature of vision loss.
A significant diagnostic test for retinitis pigmentosa is- electroretinogramwhereinelectrodes are placed on the cornea and surface of the eye determine response of the retina in presence of flashes of light. This test can also detect defect in cones.
Treatment of retinitis pigmentosa
There is no particular medicine, surgery or pills that can cure retinitis pigmentosa completely. However, eye doctors consider treating patients with specific doses of vitamin A to slowdown the progression of the disease. Along with that doctors encourage diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids that essentially include consuming fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, etc.
Low vision eye glasses are also given to patients with significant or total vision loss. Such glasses are special devices that magnify and illuminate objects under low light. This way they can cope with vision loss.
Currently, several research trials are being conducted on stem cell therapy and retinal transplant with the aim to cure patients completely and help them regain normal vision.
It’s important to note that genetic testing can also be done for retinitis pigmentosa, thus, it helps to evaluate the risk of inhering the disease from parents to children.
One can take steps to overcome the loss of vision. You can try making things bigger like bigger fonts for your computer or mobile screen, using brighter lighting, brighter colors that help you see better. Using low vision ails and magnifiers will also help you see and read better. You can get yourself registered as ‘partially sighted’ or ‘legally blind’. This will help you get many benefits entitled for the disabled.
Written by: Batul nafisa
Date last updated: february 11, 2015