Retinitis Pigmentosa

  • Medical Author:
    Frank J. Weinstock, MD, FACS

    Dr. Weinstock is a board-certified ophthalmologist. He practices general ophthalmology in Canton, Ohio, with a special interest in contact lenses. He holds faculty positions of Professor of Ophthalmology at the Northeastern Ohio Colleges of Medicine and Affiliate Clinical Professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science at Florida Atlantic University.

  • Medical Editor: Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

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What is the treatment for retinitis pigmentosa?

As of now there is no specific cure for retinitis pigmentosa. For years, vitamin A therapy has been recommended for many RP patients, based on research dating back to the early 1990s. A randomized, controlled trial of vitamins A and E found that 15,000 IU a day of vitamin A palmitate could slow the course of the condition among adults with typical forms of RP. Vitamin E, however, at a 400 IU a day dose appeared to have an adverse effect on the course of RP in the same study.

Another study among adult patients with RP has shown that an omega-3-rich diet containing docosahexaenoic acid can further slow disease progression. Such a diet includes one to two 3-ounce servings per week of oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, or sardines. Researchers estimated that the combination of vitamin A plus this diet could provide almost 20 additional years of useful vision for adults who start the regimen in their 30s.

Serious research is being carried out with some progress being made in experiments in rats. (An international research team led by Columbia University Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.)

It is important to make a diagnosis so that the patient and family may be counseled as to the status of the disease, what the patient may do, and what low-vision treatments (in more advanced disease) might be available to allow maximization of the patient's visual potential.

Low-vision services will be very helpful in coping with the disease. This low-vision therapy may be provided in the eye specialists' offices or by referral to a low-vision center.

As the visual field constricts, efforts are being explored for the use of visual field expanding glasses.

If cataracts occur, they may be removed as in other patients with cataracts, usually with the use of an intraocular lens.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2015

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