What Is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Submitted by Elman Retina Group on April 13, 2021

Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment in Pikesville, Glen Burnie, & RosedaleRetinitis pigmentosa is a relatively rare inherited disease affecting the retina, or the layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the back wall of your eye. The average ophthalmologist may only occasionally encounter patients with inherited retinal diseases; therefore, they may not be the best fit to properly manage retinitis pigmentosa.

The doctors of Elman Retina Group have extensive experience and a strong interest in inherited retinal diseases. They are very familiar with the diagnosis and care of retinitis pigmentosa.

How Retinitis Pigmentosa Works

The retina contains cells known as photoreceptors, which absorb and convert incoming light into electrical signals. (Those signals are then sent to the brain to process into the images we see.)

There are two type of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods are located in the outer portions of the retina, and enable clear vision in dim or dark lighting conditions. Cones are concentrated in the central portions of the retina, called the macula, and enable color vision and fine detail vision.

Retinitis pigmentosa affects everyone differently. The symptoms depend on whether rods or cones are affected first. Most cases of retinitis pigmentosa affect rods first. As rods degenerate, it becomes harder to see in dark or dim lighting conditions. Driving at night or reading in a dimly lit room may pose a challenge. Because rods are located in the outer portions of the retina, peripheral vision also starts to gradually decline. As cones start to degenerate, it takes a toll on central vision, color vision and visual acuity. It may appear as though vision is slowly “constricting” and the visual field is narrowing.

What Is the Prognosis for Retinitis Pigmentosa?

There is currently no complete cure for retinitis pigmentosa, but there are several emerging therapies for certain sub-types of retinitis pigmentosa. If you are diagnosed with the disease, our doctors can advise of therapies to slow down its progression and prevent or delay future vision loss.

Our doctors also encourage genetic testing to identify the gene mutation(s) causing retinitis pigmentosa. This is useful for a few reasons:

  • It helps confirm the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa.
  • It sheds light on the inheritance pattern of the disease. Knowing which current and/or future family members may be at risk can help determine who should be tested.
  • It helps patients qualify for clinical trials for emerging therapies.

Elman Retina Group offers free on-site genetic testing for over 250 genes.

If you are experiencing changes in your vision that may be due to retinitis pigmentosa, our doctors invite you to schedule an informational consultation. Call or email us today to request an appointment.