• Retinitis Pigmentosa Diagnosis and Treatment

    Written By:
    Reviewed By: Ninel Z Gregori MD
    Oct. 30, 2019

    How is retinitis pigmentosa diagnosed?

    Retinitis pigmentosa can be diagnosed and measured by:

    • Genetic testing. This test looks at a sample of your blood or other tissues to see if you have certain genes that are associated with a disease. It can also help determine the likely course or severity of a disease and whether gene therapy to replace the faulty gene may be helpful.
    • Electroretinography. This test measures the electrical activity in the retina, or how well the retina responds to light. It works much like the EKG, which measures the activity and health of the heart.
    • Visual field testing. Retinitis pigmentosa can affect your peripheral (side) vision. Visual field testing helps measure your side vision and find any blind spots that may be developing.
    • Optical coherence tomography. Also known as OCT, this imaging test takes special, highly detailed pictures of your retina. It can help diagnose RP and find out how it is affecting your retina.

    Can retinitis pigmentosa be treated?

    There is no single treatment for retinitis pigmentosa because there are over 100 genes that cause it. There is treatment for retinitis pigmentosa due to the RPE65 genetic defect. Research is ongoing for other forms of the disease. See your ophthalmologist to get appropriate genetics testing.

    Scientists are also studying why and how retinitis pigmentosa happens within families. They hope to develop treatments based on this information.

    Research shows that taking certain vitamins, including vitamin A palmitate, may help some people with retinitis pigmentosa. Your ophthalmologist can tell you if these vitamins might be helpful for you. If so, he or she can recommend which vitamins and how much you should take.

    Some patients develop swelling of the retina and may be helped by a certain type of eye drop. Cataracts or clouding of the eye’s lens may also develop and surgery to treat this might be helpful for some patients. There is also an “artificial retina” called the ARGUS II implant, which may be helpful for some patients with severe vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa.

    People with low vision can learn to make the most of their remaining sight. There are many devices and ways to do things differently that can help with tasks. Vision specialists can teach you to use these tools and techniques.

    If you have retinitis pigmentosa and plan to have children, you might want to speak with a genetic counselor to learn about your chance of passing this eye condition on to your children.