Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a group of retinal diseases that are characterized by loss of peripheral (side) vision, and frequently by difficulty seeing in dimly lighted areas (night blindness). Many of the diseases collectively called RP are inherited, and investigation may disclose that other family members were or are affected. In most patients, the effects of RP are confined to the eye and vision. However, RP and deafness (partial or complete) occur together in about 10% of cases. Rarely, RP may be present at birth, but the onset of symptoms may occur at any age.
Since RP refers to a group of retinal diseases (rather than a single disease), it is not possible to predict accurately what may occur in an individual. However, patients generally demonstrate a slow, progressive loss of peripheral vision over many years, until only central (tunnel) vision remains. Most patients retain the central vision for an extended or indefinite period of time. Rarely, patients may slowly lose even this central vision and become totally blind. Some form of cataract develops in about 40% of RP patients.
Night blindness and loss of peripheral vision
No treatment has been demonstrated to retard, arrest, or cure RP; management of some RP diseases may include ultraviolet screening in sunglasses and/or daily doses of anti-oxidant vitamins such as C, E, lutein and beta-carotene (non smokers only); molecular therapies for many forms of retinal dystrophy are on the horizon.