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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Ring a ring of roses, Pocket full of posies

Ashes ashes, We all fall down.

Did you know that this innocent seeming nursery rhyme was actually written about the plague epidemic?

Ring a ring of roses suggests a rose coloured ring-like rash, one of the first signs of the disease. Pocket full of posies denotes the belief that petals could ward off evil spirits. Ashes ashes points towards the practice of burning the bodies.

Ignorance about medicine meant that prehistoric men believed that the wrath of gods and evil spirits were the cause of diseases. Today, we may pride ourselves on the fact we have progressed a lot, but there still remain a few diseases which render medical science speechless. Retinitis Pigmentosa is one of them…


What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Retinitis Pigmentosa is a group of inherited disorders in which there is gradual degeneration of the retina – the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye.


Do I have Retinitis Pigmentosa? (Signs and Symptoms)   

Symptoms are often first noticed in childhood. Symptoms usually become apparent between the age group of 10 – 30 years. There is slow loss of vision.

  • It usually begins with loss of night vision or the ability to adjust to darkness. You may notice that you see poorly in movie theatres and other dimly lit rooms, may have trouble driving after sunset or may stumble over your furniture in the dark. This is called night blindness.
  • This is usually followed by having trouble seeing objects in the periphery of your field of vision. Slowly, your visual field goes on constricting so that you are only left with a tunnel vision.
  • Later on, central vision may also get affected, making detailed work like reading or threading a needle difficult.
  • You may also see small shimmering flashes of light (called photopsia).
  • Sometimes, Retinitis Pigmentosa may be associated with other symptoms like hearing loss or kidney problems.


What are the causes of Retinitis Pigmentosa?

We do not know much about what causes Retinitis Pigmentosa, except that it is hereditary. If it starts in one eye, your other eye will also usually develop it in a few years. Sometimes, there may be a lack of family history of the disease.


What are the tests for Retinitis Pigmentosa?   

  • Visual Acuity and Refraction: This helps find out how much of your vision has been affected.
  • Fundoscopy: Your eyes are dilated with drops and the back of your eye is examined by a Retina Specialist.
  • Colour Testing
  • Visual field testing: This helps find the degree of loss of side vision.
  • Electro-Retinogram: Electrodes are placed on your cornea (the clear layer at the front of your eye) and around your eye to see if your retinal cells are responding properly to flashes of light.
  • Retinal Photography


How is Retinitis Pigmentosa treated?

As of now, there is no permanent cure for Retinitis Pigmentosa. Vitamin A, Omega 3 rich diet may be beneficial. Sunglasses should be used to protect the retina from the damaging effects of UV light.

Various devices and implants are in the experimental phases:

1.    Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System: This retinal implant converts video input from special eye glasses into electronic signals.

2.    Retina Implant AG: A microchip implanted in the eye absorbs light signals, converts them to electrical signals and transmits these signals to the brain.

3.    Electrical Stimulation Therapy: Controlled electrical stimulation of the retina may help delay the progress of the disease.

Low Vision Aids:

These devices help magnify and illuminate objects and help you maintain an active and independent lifestyle.


What are the complications of Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Cataracts occur more frequently among patients having Retinitis Pigmentosa.

The ultimate complication is loss of retinal functioning causing blindness.


How can I prevent Retinitis Pigmentosa?

If you or your spouse have a family history of retinitis Pigmentosa, the risk of having an affected child may be made by genetic counselling.