Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) refers to a group of rare, genetic conditions that cause the retina to undergo loss and breakdown of its cells. Since the retina is the light-sensitive tissue found in the back of the eye, any condition affecting it can cause difficulty with vision.
The genes affected among those who have retinitis pigmentosa are the same genes responsible for carrying out instructions for the manufacture of proteins needed in the retina’s cells, known as the photoreceptors. In some cases, the mutations or changes in the gene are so extreme that the gene is completely unable to make the protein needed, thereby limiting the function of the cells entirely. However there are also cases wherein the mutation creates a protein that has toxic effects to the cell, while other mutations result in an abnormal protein that doesn’t work properly.
In all three forms of retinitis pigmentosa, the result is damaged photoreceptors. Since photoreceptors are the cells of the retina that help us to see, any case of retinitis pigmentosa brings along difficulty with vision. The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa usually start during childhood, as children will start experiencing difficulties seeing in the dark. It also affects their ability to adjust to changes in light. Individuals diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa also usually develop photophobia, wherein they get extremely uncomfortable with bright lights.
As retinosa pigmentosa progresses, some patients experience night blindness as well as a progressive loss in the visual field. There are many devices and services that are designed to help people treat and manage retinitis pigmentosa, with the objective of helping them regain the ability to carry out activities as independently as possible.
Patients typically report to an eye doctor but depending on the severity may also have to meet occasionally with occupational therapists, mobility specialists, orientation doctors, and others.
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