Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a group of hereditary eye diseases in which the retina is destroyed. Little by little the retinal cells die off: usually the first thing to die down are the rods located in the periphery of the retina. The cones in the center of the macula are initially preserved.
Dissemination of the RP gene
In Germany, about 30, 000 to 40, 000 people suffer from this disease, around 3 million worldwide. It is estimated that every 80th carries an "unfavorably" altered RP gene.
So, such a gene carries genetic information that can trigger the development of this retinal disease in gene carriers or their offspring.
Retinitis Pigmentosa: symptoms and consequences
The first episode of RP, which usually occurs in adolescence or young adulthood, is usually night blindness. Gradually color and contrast vision are lost, later the visual acuity is reduced and the visual field becomes narrower, until after a few years only a small central visual residual is left. Hence the term "Tunnelblick" or "Röhrengesichtsfeld".
At this stage, for example, the RP patient sees the glass in front of him on the table, but not the bottle that is right next to it. Despite still maintaining central visual acuity, orientation in unfamiliar rooms or on the street is no longer possible.
Many people who suffer from this disease go completely blind during their lifetime. Retinitis Pigmentosa is the leading cause of vision loss in middle age.
Diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is a hereditary disease caused by an altered gene. Prevention is not possible. The most important method for early detection of this disease is electroretinography (ERG).
The visual field, the visual acuity, the sense of color and the dark adaptation are checked, as well as the retinal current curve and the background of the eye are mirrored.
RP: measures and therapy
So far, there is no way, either surgically, medically or by diet, to slow down or bring to a halt the process of dying of the visual cells. Great hope is placed in molecular genetics in order to detect the changes in the genetic material that cause such diseases and thus to find a possible therapeutic approach.
For many years, various research projects have been carried out with the aim of helping people who are blinded by degenerative retinal diseases to be able to see each other again. In the meantime, various retinal chips have been developed, with which some subjects in clinical studies at least experienced light-dark perceptions and were even able to recognize shadowy outlines.
The further development should at least provide orientation in the foreseeable future. For all other eyesight tasks, people with RP need visual aids, voice computers and the extra Braille keyboard on the PC.