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.

How long does retinitis pigmentosa last?

It lasts a lifetime, with blindness often occurring if one lives long enough.

What are complications of retinitis pigmentosa?

Cataracts occur at a higher incidence in RP patients. If the cataracts are significant, cataract removal can be performed surgically. When cataracts occur, patients respond well to cataract removal with implantation of an intraocular lens. However, this does not improve retinal function.

The ultimate complication of RP is blindness from loss of retinal function.

What is the prognosis for retinitis pigmentosa?

The prognosis is poor since there is no cure for the disease. However, there are researchers working hard on this disease. Significant progress is being made, and there is reason for optimism that the near future will bring treatment which may stabilize the disease, prevent it, or both.

What research is being done for retinitis pigmentosa?

There is a large amount of research currently being performed both in the United States and internationally. As we acquire more knowledge about influencing gene function, treatment for hereditary diseases, including RP, will become available. If as few as 5% of cones can be kept alive, a person with RP can continue to function independently.

A promising treatment aimed at preserving cones, the retinal cells that provide central and daytime vision, is in a phase I clinical trial. This involves a protein known as rod-derived cone viability factor (RdCVF). It has preserved vision in several preclinical studies.

Other promising research involves synthetic nucleic acid nanoparticles, growth factors such as ciliary neurotrophic factor, gene therapy with recombinant adeno-associated virus, and stem cell therapy. Scientists and ophthalmologists are also investigating retinal transplants and artificial retinal implants.

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