What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the name of a group of eye diseases that cause vision loss, also known as retinal dystrophy or tapetoretinal degeneration. RP can cause complete blindness, but in most cases, it leaves patients legally blind. You are legally blind when you only have 5% sight, which corresponds to considerable visual impairment. At this stage, you will only be able to identify the outer edges of people and objects. Retinitis Pigmentosa destroys the light-sensitive cells in the retina, also known as the rods and cones. The rods are located in the outer part of the retina, while the cones are situated in the middle. RP first affects the rods. Initial symptoms of RP include night blindness and blurred vision, before progressing to more pronounced visual impairment. Peripheral vision will be affected first, leading to tunnel vision, after which the disease will also affect central vision. Retinitis Pigmentosa is a hereditary condition, which means RP often occurs in several members of the same family. The symptoms of RP can occur as early as childhood, but it is also possible that the diagnosis is not made until the patient reaches middle age. The chance of transmitting the disease to your children can vary from 1 to 50 percent. For more information, you can go to your doctor for genetic testing.

Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment

Unfortunately, no effective treatment for RP has been discovered to date, despite years of research. Various studies are currently being carried out to find potential treatment methods, ranging from gen therapy and stem cell therapy to retinal prostheses and eye transplants. There are a number of tools, though, that can be used to make living with a visual impairment easier, such as spoken subtitles, screen reading software and braille displays, which enable patients to use computers by means of braille.

People with RP are at increased risk of additional conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma. In case of Glaucoma, another eye disease, the optic nerve is damaged, which is mainly caused by elevated eye pressure and also leads to vision loss. Patients with cataracts suffer from diminished visual acuity and blurry vision and have trouble seeing contrast. These two conditions, however, can be treated and it is important that you seek help from your ophthalmologist on time.

Diet and nutritional supplements to combat Retinitis Pigmentosa

A healthy lifestyle has a major role to play in combatting RP. The best steps you can take are refraining from smoking, consuming little to now alcohol, and eating nutritious meals. Our eyes need nutrients to stay healthy, most importantly: Antioxidants, Alpha-lipoic acid, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, C and zinc. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are also very important, but seeing as our bodies are incapable of producing these pigments, we have to depend on food or supplements. Food that contains these nutrients is very good for your eyes, but you can also take nutritional supplements in addition to your daily diet.

Make sure to consult with your doctor before you start taking supplements with your medication.