Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis Pigmentosa is a group of inherited disorders causing retinal degeneration and a decline in vision. Rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina convert light into electrical signals that the brain interprets as vision. In patients with RP, these photoreceptors degenerate leading to gradual loss of vision. The type and speed of vision loss from RP varies from person to person. It depends on their form of the condition.


Symptoms depend on whether rods or cones are initially involved. In most forms of RP, rods are affected first. Night blindness is one of the earliest and most frequent symptoms of RP. If and when the disease progresses and cones become affected, decreased central vision and reduced ability to discriminate colors and perceive details occurs.


Changes in genes that control cells in the retina are responsible for Retinitis Pigmentosa.Microbes like Toxoplasma, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes zoster, Herpes simplex, and Candida can cause Retinitis.


There is no single treatment for RP because there are over 100 genes that cause it. Some research has shown that vitamin A may slow the progression of certain forms of RP, but 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.

Cataract may also develop early in these patients and surgery to treat this may be of help. 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.

Low vision aids or LVA may also be offered to these patients that can help with tasks.

Scientists are studying why and how RP happens within families. They hope to develop treatments based on this information.

Dr. Sangeeta D. Goswami
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Dr. Sangeeta D. Goswami

MS (Ophthal), FICO, FRF, VR Fellow, Retina Specialist