RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA SYMPTOMSSymptoms of retinitis pigmentosa usually begin with night blindness and blurry vision during the daylight. This is similar to near or far sighted patients with astigmatism, however it is determined through physical eye examinations that the patient is experiencing the first stages of retinitis pigmentosa. Additionally, the patient will eventually experience the loss of peripheral vision. Late in the advancement of the disease, the patient will then experience the loss of central vision as well. There is no pain or discomfort associated with retinitis pigmentosa.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder which can often run in families and affect every genetically linked family member. This means a mother who has it is likely to pass it onto to all of her children, leaving only the biological father without the disease. Heredity is the only risk factor for developing retinitis pigmentosa. It is a rare eye disease that only affects approximately 1 out of every 4,000 people in the United States.
Image: Retinitis Pigmentosa
RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA CAUSESThere are other eye syndromes and conditions that are similar in experience to retinitis pigmentosa, most of which are either confused with retinitis pigmentosa or are initially misdiagnosed. Diseases such as Usher’s syndrome myotonic dystrophy, Laurence-Moon syndrome, Mucopolysaccharidosis, and Friedreich’s ataxia can present with similar symptoms at some stage in their respective diseases.
An eye examination will often reveal the early signs of retinitis pigmentosa, as the condition usually begins in childhood and develops over a period of 40 to 50 years. Tests to determine the retina’s integrity include refraction tests, visual activity, color defectiveness determination, pupillary reflex response, a slit lamp examination, retinal photography, an ultrasound of the eye, intraocular pressure determination, flourescein angiography, and a electroretinogram. These tests all help to determine what the eye sees, how well the eye sees it, and the activity which is performed by the eye in order to see.
RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA TREATMENTRetinitis pigmentosa is not a condition that can be treated at the time of this writing. Eye specialists can make recommendations which may be helpful in delaying the disease’s progression, but a continual worsening of vision is to be expected.
Some experts recommend the use of sunglasses to help delay progression. Others claim, with mixed results, that a high intake of Vitamin A palmitate as well as additional antioxidants may help to slow the progression of the disease. Though most patients do not become completely blind, near total blindness is expected by the time a patient reaches between 45 and 65 years of age. In some cases, total blindness does occur.
There are potential complications associated with retinitis pigmentosa, limited to various eye health concerns such as cataracts and retinal swelling. Both of these complications can be treated effectively.
The damage to the retina that affects Retinitis pigmentosa can not be repaired, and those inflicted with the disease need to learn to cope with the eventual loss of their vision. While it is not expected for complete blindness to occur, the loss of sight that is typical of retinitis pigmentosa is still life inhibiting and debilitating for most people. The loss of sight is gradual, and thus does not necessarily call for extreme measures to be taken, but preparedness is an important part of learning to cope with this disease. Learning to cope in a sighted world without sight will take practice and even psychological counseling. Counseling is recommended for all patients nearing the last stages of the disease.
While some individuals debate the morality of genetic counseling, it is often the only way for a mother or father to prevent the high likelihood of passing retinitis pigmentosa on to future generations. While there are many who disagree with this tactic, there are those who argue that genetic counseling and genetic selection may be able to eliminate this disease within a fifty year time frame. Genetic counseling is the option of every parent who is likely to pass on the disease.