Retinitis Pigmentosa

About Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of eye diseases that affect the cells in the retina called photoreceptors that help to receive visual images. In RP, the photoreceptors progressively lose function, and side or peripheral vision and night vision slowly worsens over time. Central vision typically declines in the advanced stages of retinitis pigmentosa, but total blindness is usually rare.

Risk Factors

Retinitis pigmentosa can be inherited from a recessive gene, so having a family RP history increases the risk of developing the disorder. However, some people with RP have no family history.


Symptoms and the progression of RP can vary. Some common symptoms include:

  • Poor night vision or difficulty seeing in low light.
  • Limited peripheral vision.
  • Difficulty seeing detail.
  • Tunnel vision.
  • Central vision deteriorates.
  • Seeing glares.
  • Difficulty reading.


Columbia ophthalmologists can diagnose retinitis pigmentosa in several ways. An ophthalmoscope can be used to view the inside of the eye. An electroretinogram (ERG) measures the proper functioning of photoreceptors of the retina as people with RP have reduced electrical activity in the area. Visual tests can also be performed to determine the severity of vision loss, and genetic testing can screen for the mutation known to cause retinitis pigmentosa.


There is currently no known cure or treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, but there are some ways that our Columbia ophthalmologist can help you to manage the condition, which include:

  • Special glasses – To combat glare, a light amber filter can be added to general eyeglasses to help improve tolerance to bright lights.
  • Vitamin A – High doses of vitamin A (about 15,000 international units) may help slow the progression of the disease in some patients.
  • Gene therapy – Gene therapy is being studied as a possible treatment for RP and involves replacing or deactivating mutated genes or inserting a new gene to help the body fight the disease.

Why Choose Columbia?

Columbia ophthalmologists are at the forefront of diagnosing, monitoring, and treating complex eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa. They have discovered the molecular basis of some form of retinitis pigmentosa. Our experienced, innovative, and brilliant researchers and physicians are constantly seeking new therapies, such as gene surgery and retinal cell transplantation, to find a cure for retinitis pigmentosa.