What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Retinitis Pigmentosa is often simply called RP. It describes several different hereditary diseases. With RP, vision loss is caused by the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina called rods and cones.

RP commonly runs in families and is a genetic condition. The age when someone first notices vision difficulties and the rate at which the vision deteriorates can vary widely – even within the same family.  Most people will first notice something wrong between 10 and 30 years old.

People with RP first notice difficulty seeing at night, when there’s low light or going between light and dark places. Next they will find their peripheral (or outer) vision beginning to disappear. In some cases, the central vision is also affected.

RP is sometimes part of a syndrome, for example Usher Syndrome, when hearing and often balance are also affected.

There are many types of RP and associated rare retinal conditions. In order for someone to understand their individual condition, genetic testing may be recommended. This can provide information about what is most likely to happen in future, and whether emerging treatments may be helpful.

You can find out more about RP at Retina New Zealand and their international organisation Retina International.