Retinitis Pigmentosa - Symptoms

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Please describe the signs and symptoms associated with retinitis pigmentosa.

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What are retinitis pigmentosa symptoms and signs?

Since retinitis pigmentosa begins as rod degeneration, the patient first notices increasing difficulty in night vision, followed by difficulty seeing in the periphery. Slowly progressive constriction of the visual field leads to tunnel vision. A small area of central vision in both eyes usually persists for years. Generally night blindness precedes tunnel vision by years or even decades. Total blindness eventually ensues in most cases. The age of appearance of legal blindness ranges from as early as childhood to as late as the 40s.

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Comment from: Bern, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: January 21

I am now age 43 and I am just diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa this year, 2014. I always knew that there was something wrong with my eyes. I have a hard time seeing at all times of the day. However, night time vision is the worst. I always tell people that I may as well walk around with my eyes closed, because I cannot see a thing. I have to be hanging on to someone when I'm out in a crowd and in the dark especially. Sometimes it is very scary because I step on everybody. Those who know me understand but strangers are sometimes frustrated because I appear to be clumsy to them. When, I really cannot see, I can be looking in front of me but, I cannot see what is at the bottom and the top so, a lot of times, I am running into things or stepping on the children. As a result, when I go out I do not roam around. I usually stay in one place because I cannot see, if I start moving around I bump into things. At least I know what is happening to me now. I think that I should get a stick to help me be a little more independent and safe when I go out.

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Comment from: Lily, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when I was 12. You may notice patterns are bendy, depth perception is trippy and black static in the corners of your vision. As it progresses the black static will cover more of your peripheral vision. Because you only have small areas of vision, you may catch a glimpse of something and then look, only to realize it was something else. You will also notice your night vision decreasing, everything slowly getting darker. Even light sources will travel less distance and illuminate less space. Unshielded light sources (like car lights, lamps, light bulbs, street lights) will have large light halos around them. This increased light sensitivity will require you to wear sunglasses on bright days, otherwise it may be painful. All of these symptoms are things I experienced when the rods in my eyes are the spots affected. As each case of retinitis pigmentosa is only similar to others, and each person's case is unique, it is difficult to say what will happen. The disease may stop there, and your cones may be left intact. This would leave you with central vision, but no peripheral vision. Or it may progress, eventually leading to total blindness. You'll know your cones are pigmented because your perception of color will begin to fail. Symptoms of rod pigmentation are loss of peripheral vision, night blindness and light sensitivity. Symptoms of cone pigmentation are color blindness and loss of central vision.

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