Although many eye conditions develop later in life as an effect of aging, others are caused by genetic factors and may begin to present themselves much earlier. One such condition is retinitis pigmentosa – a disease that causes damage to the rods and cones in a person’s retina. Rods are responsible for both peripheral and night vision, and as they become damaged, the person with RP slowly begins to lose these types of sight. The American Optometric Association suggests that signs of RP often become apparent in childhood or adolescence, with night vision typically declining first. Fortunately, the disease is gradual, meaning a person may not develop a severe case for many years. Once the disease does progress, however, the patient may only be able to see straight ahead in a form of “tunnel vision.” At this stage, people must adapt to their new range of vision and stay aware of their surroundings. Otherwise, they may accidentally bump into furniture or other objects that are no longer in their peripheral vision.
If you suspect you or your child may have retinitis pigmentosa, talk to an optometrist on your vision plan that specializes in low vision. He or she can provide you with valuable information about ways to slow the progression of vision loss, including making changes to your diet to include vitamin A and lutein. And although there is currently no cure for RP, your eye doctor can introduce you to several of the low-vision aids available, such as magnifying lenses and night-vision scopes. Such doctors are also good sources of information about living productively and independently with low vision. Find out more by scheduling an appointment today.