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Symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa

The onset of symptoms is variable but usually begins between the ages of 10 and 30, although some changes may become apparent in childhood. In one type of RP, Leber congenital amaurosis, children are severely visually impaired at birth or in early infancy. By contrast, other types of RP may only show symptoms late in life. In the more common types of RP, a person will first notice visual problems at dusk or in poor light, so-called night blindness, and also a gradual reduction in the peripheral field of vision, loss of the outer edges of vision ('side vision'), resulting in a tendency to miss things or trip over things. At an early stage the central vision ('straight-ahead and reading vision') is unaffected. As the outer edges of the field of vision gradually disappear, the RP sufferer is left with the condition commonly referred to as "tunnel vision" (Figure 6a, Figure 6b, Figure 7 and Figure 8). Many people retain this central tunnel of useful vision until quite late in life, thereby being able to recognise faces and continue reading. The rate of loss of central vision is slower than that of peripheral visual field loss.
Figure 6a - Normal vision

Figure 6a - Normal vision

Figure 6b - Field of Vision Loss in Early Retinitis Pigmentosa

Figure 6b - Field of Vision Loss in Early Retinitis Pigmentosa

Figure 7 - Field of Vision Loss in Early and Late Retinitis Pigmentosa

Figure 7 - Field of Vision Loss in Late Retinitis Pigmentosa

Figure 8 - Field of Vision Loss in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Figure 8 - Field of Vision Loss in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The speed of loss of vision varies considerably from person to person, even between members of the same family, due to the many forms of RP (Inheritance Patterns Genetics and Retinitis Pigmentosa), and other potential factors including environmental influences. When RP is advanced the central vision becomes affected and there is an inability to read or recognise faces and ultimately vision may be so poor that only bright lights can be perceived. It is very uncommon to lose vision entirely.

In some patients RP may be part of a medical condition that can affect other parts of the body; the RP is then said to be part of a syndrome. There are many syndromes associated with RP (RP Syndromes), but these are rare. Most individuals with RP will have no other related health problems. One example of an RP syndrome is Usher syndrome, where RP is associated with hearing difficulties.


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