Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is an uncommon, inherited disease where the retina gradually deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing cells that line the back of your eye and converts light rays into signals that are transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain, where they are recognized as images.

Symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa is a slow and progressive disease, which causes low vision. Some symptoms include:
  • Decreased night vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision and eventual loss of central vision in some
  • Difficulty identifying colors
  • Every person will experience vision change at a different pace depending on the genetic makeup of the disorder.


Retinitis pigmentosa is diagnosed by a physician examining the back of the eye.  Other tests may include an electroretinogram, which measures retinal function, to help characterize and monitor vision loss.

Causes of Retinitis Pigmentosa

It is thought that genetic defects cause retinitis pigmentosa. These defects cause retina cells to malfunction and degenerate. It is also believed to be hereditary.

What treatments are available?

Studies have shown that vitamin A may help to slow the progression of retinitis pigmentosa. Occasionally swelling in the macula or a cataract occurs due to retinitis pigmentosa which may be treated.  Speak with a physician about the risks and benefits of vitamin A and the amount to take. There are also special low-vision aids and services available to help people, so they can continue doing many of their normal daily activities. Please speak to a doctor or contact one of the organizations listed below for more information and resources.

Photo of retinitis pigmentosa

The American Foundation of the Blind

1-800-AFB-LINE (232-5463)

The National Association for the Visual Handicapped (NAHV)
Lighthouse International

National Eye Institute (NEI)

National Federation of the Blind


University of Iowa

Carver Genetic Testing Lab

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